Christine Thompson, 24, came to the door of her apartment at the Barry Farm public housing complex on Stevens Road SE with her 3-month-old daughter in her arms. Without hesitation, she said she was glad that Mayor Anthony A. Williams is exiting the District's political stage.
"He could have tried to do more," said Thompson, who complained that Williams and his Cabinet members skipped meetings that community leaders invited them to. "They never showed up. Nobody came or called. . . . He could have at least come out to see what everybody had to say."
But Jeffrey Gildenhorn, owner of American City Diner, praised the mayor. "He has restored integrity to the office of the mayor and has produced respect throughout the country for D.C.," Gildenhorn said. "He will be remembered for bringing baseball down to Washington and for creating an economic environment that has raised the city's stature. We have gone from a junk-bond rating on Wall Street to a world-class rating. Before Mayor Williams took office, people were leaving; now people want to live in the District."
Williams, whose second term ends next year, announced last week that he will not seek reelection. During his nearly seven years in office, he emerged from the shadows of former Mayor Marion Barry and the financial control board, and residents said he will be remembered for both accomplishments and shortcomings.
For many District residents, Williams is a champion who restored dignity to City Hall. Others stressed that he could have done more to help the city's neediest residents.
Richard Lee, 65, who is called the Mayor of H Street, will always remember when Williams walked into his Northeast barbershop.
"He was at 3rd and H streets. He was just standing there," said Lee, who has been cutting hair since the 1960s. "We remember that real good because he promised he'd bring all kinds of things to this area. Most everything we have here is what people did by themselves, without his help."
In the area of education, Williams is also getting mixed grades. Marvin Tucker, a parent activist who has a daughter at Noyes Elementary and a son at Shaed Elementary in Northeast, said Williams has not done enough and that the school board has not always done what was best for the school system as a whole.
But other parents cited Williams's close ties to Superintendent Clifford B. Janey as a major accomplishment.
"When monies were needed for the schools -- he and Dr. Janey formed a good alliance," said Cherita Whiting, who has a son enrolled at McKinley Technology High School in Northeast. "We never had the mayor and superintendent working this closely together."
Maria Stoneham, a 64-year-old accountant from the Hillcrest community of Southeast Washington, said, "I think that he did a lot for the downtown area, but living in Southeast, I don't think that he's done anything. There's not a bookstore to be found once you cross the Anacostia."
Dorothy Brizill, a longtime Ward 1 community activist, said Williams's legacy will always be painted in terms of the haves and the have-nots. "He can take credit for improvements in government services and the revitalization of downtown, but if you talked to people in the neighborhoods, they don't see the benefit."
Barbara Savage, who along with her husband, Paul, was a key player in the 1998 Draft Williams campaign, said the impact of his departure will be felt over time.
"I respect his decision, but I think the aftermath is when people are going to realize what we're missing. This guy had vision," Savage said.
Williams reflected on his legacy in an interview after he announced he would not run again.
"I think historians will say that I have really done a great job in improving the management of the city and improving economic development in the city, but the leadership part is where I have struggled because of a lot of different reasons," Williams said.
The mayor seemed bothered that he didn't connect with ordinary people more.
"One of the things an African American mayor has to know is that you have to be able to lead your people," Williams said. "It is not just catering to people and giving them what they want, but leading them in terms of self-responsibility and self-determination."
Staff writers Karlyn Barker, D'Vera Cohn, Petula Dvorak, V. Dion Haynes, Yolanda Woodlee, Eric M. Weiss and Nia-Malika Henderson contributed to this report.