WYDaily.com is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.
Six years ago, an economics professor at the College of William & Mary was appointed mayor of the City of Williamsburg by his fellow city council members.
Clyde Haulman’s work during those years challenged him in each of his areas of expertise, whether it was bringing the city out of the Great Recession, encouraging the development of the Northeast Triangle or improving relationships between students and permanent residents.
Although he would not take full credit for these accomplishments, colleagues agree the city would not be where it is today without Haulman at the helm. He concludes 16 years of city council service Thursday.
“I think his legacy will be someone who cares enormously about the welfare of Williamsburg and the larger Historic Triangle [and] worked effectively to promote it,” said William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. “We just had a very good government under Clyde’s leadership.”
Haulman’s public service in Williamsburg began in 1969 when he moved to the area to teach economics at William & Mary. He immediately got involved in the community by volunteering with First Baptist Church’s day care center, which served low-income children.
His first foray into local government was as a member of the city’s Social Services Advisory Board, to which he was appointed in 1996. He represented the city on the WJCC School Board for less than a year before he was elected to city council in 2000.
Serving on the city council was the “logical thing to do,” Haulman said, noting that the opportunity aligned with his interest in “where the rubber hits the road for public policy.” He would earn 1,082 votes in the general election, the most of all the five candidates on the ballot.
Jeanne Zeidler, who served as mayor when Haulman was first elected, said he was adept at helping residents understand the issues the city council faced and how decisions were made.
“He’s a really great listener and he always made time for citizens, so he was, for me, a very valuable source for information about what was going on in the city and what people were thinking,” Zeidler said.
Zeidler, who has observed Haulman’s leadership since she retired from the council in 2010, commended her successor for promoting collaboration and listening to city staff and fellow council members.
“I really appreciated that he worked well with the city staff. He respected them,” Zeidler said. “His respect for other members of council was clear…I think that’s a good model of good governance and good leadership.”
Jack Tuttle, a former city manager, said Haulman has “tremendous patience” and would take the time to bring the council to a consensus.
“He works to get people not just to the three votes to make something he wants to see happen, but works to get the five votes,” Tuttle said. “That takes a lot of effort. Clyde was just willing to do that hard work.”
One of the highlights from Haulman’s career was “weathering” the Great Recession. He said the council had to evaluate how the city would deal with the impact on revenues, keep the high quality of services, generate surpluses and, ultimately, maintain the city’s strong fund balance.
“Thanks largely to the city staff, we in Williamsburg did a remarkable job on that,” Haulman said, asserting the city’s fiscal strength today is the best it’s been since 2008. “It’s taken eight years to get through that, but again council and staff and citizens working together kept the city in a very strong fiscal position.”
Tuttle said Haulman “shepherded” the city through the Great Recession and helped the city focus on initiatives that would give it a financial boost, such as redevelopment, economic development and tourism promotion.
One of his first initiatives as mayor was organizing the Northeast Triangle Focus Group, which prepared a report in 2011 on ways to revitalize the areas of Capitol Landing Road, Merrimac Trail, Second Street and Penniman Road.
“That’s an area of the city we hadn’t paid much attention to, but in the last six years we’ve really paid attention and we’re starting to see the results,” Haulman said.
State Del. Monty Mason (D-Dist. 93), who worked closely with Haulman on the city’s Economic Development Authority, said Haulman understood there would be no immediate change from the report and revitalization would be realized over time.
“He had the guts to tackle things he knew were not going to be safe and easy,” Mason said. “It’s booming over there now.”
Reveley praised Haulman for his dedication to town-and-gown relations, or the relationship between the city’s permanent residents and the college’s students.
“We both have a strong interest in the integrity of the neighborhoods that abut the campus,” Reveley said. “We wanted them to continue to be or get back to being really vibrant neighborhoods in which permanent residents and students got along well. We worked very hard to that end.”
Haulman said town-and-gown relations “may be the best they’ve been in modern times.” Tuttle said it was Haulman’s “hands-on” work helping the college understand community sentiment, and vice versa, that made good relations possible.
“We went through the most difficult time I saw in the city and Clyde was instrumental in leading us to probably one of the best times we now have in town-and-gown relations,” Tuttle said.
Haulman said he would miss interacting with city staff and council members when he retires, noting that he has learned much from his colleagues.
“I think it always comes down to the people,” Haulman said.
His colleagues say they have learned from him as well. When he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, Mason said it was easy to believe government should run as efficiently as a business. He said Haulman helped him understand the value of “incremental advances” toward long term success.
“It’s easy to get frustrated when you know it takes longer in the public domain,” Mason said. “I think Clyde helped me be a bit more patient and point out and accept the short term success we were making.”
Fellow councilman Scott Foster said he will miss the intellect, experience and institutional knowledge of the council’s “resident economist.” He said Haulman has encouraged him to be proactive about making decisions on issues that affect residents’ everyday lives.
“Clyde has always been supportive of taking on those issues and thinking big and providing the best experience for citizens of Williamsburg,” Foster said. “He certainly empowered me to help make those changes.”
Haulman will not be completely retired after Thursday—he still teaches at the college—but said he plans to spend his free time working on research projects, traveling and doing housework, adding that his wife has already found projects for him to do in the garden.
Zeidler said she does not expect Haulman’s community involvement to diminish now that he’ll be out of office.
“This is a person that has provided a great role model of being a contributing citizen and an engaged citizen, and I don’t presume that’s going to change because he’s stepping out of an elected position,” she said.
Haulman agreed. He’s already eyeing opportunities with Opera in Williamsburg and LEAD Historic Triangle.
“I’ll look forward to finding the right places for me,” he said.