Williams Takes One Last Dip

By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 22, 2006

Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), having shed a few pounds and all modesty, continued a tradition unique among the nation's mayors by stripping to red trunks and cannonballing into a local swimming pool to herald the start of summer yesterday.

In his eighth and final plunge, the mayor -- dubbed "Cannonball" for his annual aquatic antics -- challenged his successor to embrace his example and take a dive for the city.

Two of the leading candidates allowed that they, too, would follow suit, or at least name someone else to do so on their behalf. Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) pronounced it an excellent idea. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) has confided to her husband that the ritual is something of a burden.

Better a proxy, they decided. "Our son would do it," Dwight Cropp said. "He was a lifeguard, you know."

Williams launched the cannonball during his first year in office, hoping to draw attention to the city's summer programs. As traditions go, it is an unusual springboard for a politician.

"We are very aware of how exposed he is -- just a pair of trunks and nothing else," said Vincent Morris, his spokesman.

Squeamishness aside, every year his communications advisers stand beside Williams, sweating in business suits and cringing as they watch the mayor hand his opponents an array of horrible metaphors to play around with.

Yesterday, his first dip into the deep end was vintage Williams -- neat and precise with nary a wave as he sliced into the pool at Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Northeast Washington. The crowd urged him to do it again. Everyone wanted Williams to make a bigger splash.

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