ABC7 Exclusive: Charles Williams talks about challenges of new job

November 20, 2012 (CHICAGO)

When winter weather moves in, Charles Williams may be the most important man in Chicago. He's the new commissioner of streets and sanitation.

He's been on the job for only a month, but knows winter doesn't wait for anybody.

"How long does the honeymoon last at Streets and San?" ABC7's Eric Horng asked Williams in his exclusive interview. "First snowflake," he answered.

Williams, 61, grew up on the West Side, and spent 32 years with Chicago police.

What does an ex-cop know about garbage and snow removal?

"It's operational. And you're able to handle operational needs that the citizens require," he said.

Williams says working a beat is not unlike working a grid, which is how the city is now being organized for garbage collection.

The new centralized system has angered some aldermen who had more influence under the former ward system of collection.

"The minute that you lock yourself into "Well, we've always done it that way", you've stopped improving. You're saying there is no better way. There's always a better way," said Williams.

Williams has no fear of ruffling feathers. He once worked in CPD Internal Affairs. A few years ago, he was a leading candidate for Chicago's top cop, but the job instead went to Jody Weis.

After being passed over for the police superintendent's job, Williams left CPD for the private sector, working for three years as head of security here at the Merchandise Mart.

Williams replaces Tom Byrne, also a former cop, who came under fire after the 2011 blizzard which left motorists stranded on Lake Shore Drive.

But Byrne won high marks for saving the city millions by implementing the grid system and new work rules with the union.

"Even though the system we're using right now works well, we'll constantly evaluate that as we move forward to see if there's ways we can improve," said Byrne.

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