Melvin Willis, Mayoral Candidate
on January 31, 2018
Melvin Willis is Richmond’s current vice mayor and is running against incumbent Tom Butt for the mayoral seat. Willis, 28, is a member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance and a Richmond native who became the youngest councilmember in Richmond’s history when he was elected at the age of 26. From 2012 to 2014, he served as the city’s youngest city planning commissioner.
Willis first ran for public office after nearly six years working with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), where he focused on issues like housing, health care, and re-entry after prison.
“I realized it was hard to get decision makers to be on the side of community issues, so I wanted to become a part of that,” he said.
Willis remains a Community Organizer at ACCE today.
Reflecting on his time on city council, Willis said he is most proud of overseeing an ordinance that will increase the minimum wage to $15 beginning January 1. He is also a staunch supporter of the Richmond Fair Rent, Just Cause for Eviction, and Homeowner Protection Ordinance, which limits unfair evictions and increases the number of residences subject to rent control.
He regrets not having done more to address problems in public housing during his tenure. “Sometimes there’s an issue that comes up and we figure staff would report on it, but it blows up,” he said. “I wish I was more aware of the situation and focused attention on what was happening there.”
If elected, he will continue to focus on issues that have been central to his tenure thus far, such as affordable housing and homelessness. “I want to use the resources in the mayor’s office to come up with creative changes and make sure that’s represented on city council and in city hall,” he said.
Willis also plans to continue working with the West Contra Costa Unified School District to get trade unions into Richmond high schools.“If there are young folks who don’t feel college ready, they can at least have an opportunity to get into the workforce out of high school.”
Jovanka Beckles, a Richmond City Council member who’s running for state assembly, called Willis one of the most ethical people she’s ever met. “I know he’s willing to stand up and fight for the community and make sure the community gets what they need,” she said.
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