Williamsburg Vice Mayor and economics professor Clyde Haulman spoke to students about town-gown relations, improving Williamsburg’s transportation system and ways for students to get involved in the city Wednesday night in the Sadler Center. The talk was co-sponsored by Students for a Better Williamsburg and the Landrum-Chandler and Monroe Hall Councils.
Haulman took questions, first addressing student complaints that Williamsburg stores close too early.
“Wawa is the hottest place in Williamsburg after 10 p.m.,” Haulman said. “The problem is half the people in the city want stores to be closed early, and the others want them to be closed later.”
Haulman said tourism dominates the Williamsburg marketplace, not students.
“[Currently] the stores in downtown Colonial Williamsburg cater to tourists more than to the community,” he said. “In the future, though, we are going to see an explosion of student-oriented businesses … For example, students want a dance club, since we have nothing like that now.”
Haulman also discussed the changes to the public transportation system planned for this spring and criticized current inconveniences with the buses.
“It’s difficult for freshmen and sophomores and those students who don’t have cars to go anywhere off campus,” he said. “We need to have more routes, more frequent stops, and longer running hours.”
The city plans to create other means of transportation in addition to the current bus system, Haulman said.
“We got a grant to get three street trolleys running from Merchant’s Square to the College to New Town to High Street,” he said. “These have been purchased and are expected to run this spring.”
Haulman also said that, despite some tensions that exist between residents and students, town-gown relations are healthy.
“Residents need to know and understand that they are living next to a college campus, but students need to respect the neighborhoods as well,” Haulman said. “I’ve lived in a neighborhood bordering the school since 1972, and for the most part, I know that students are positive contributors to the neighborhoods.”
He then listed ways for students to get involved in the community government.
“If you go to the City Council website, you can e-mail or call someone from City Council directly,” he said. “Or, you could come to any public board or commission meeting, each of which [are] essentially open forums. Students make an incredible contribution to this community, and are an invaluable resource.”
Though a student has not yet succeeded in winning a seat on City Council — Haulman, Paul Freiling ’83 and Judy Knudson won the three open City Council seats in May over Matt Beato ’09 — Haulman said he’s optimistic about students on the board in the future.
“Three students have run for City Council,” he said. “The most successful one spent a lot of time knocking on doors and becoming knowledgeable about the city. If a student wants to win, they will have to create a link with the community. I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot more students running for City Council.”
Nick Fitzgerald ’09, director of communications for SBW, said Haulman’s position as representing both the College and the town can help to bridge the gap between the two.
“The fact that Professor Haulman is a College professor popular among the students, as well as a member of City Council, is a unique opportunity,” Fitzgerald said.