Surrounded by supporters holding signs with the slogan “Vote a better way,” Ruben Wills announced his bid for the City Council seat of the late Tom White Jr., who died earlier this month of cancer at the age of 71.
“From day one we are going to be delivering services to this community for seniors and for youth,” Wills said outside his campaign office in Richmond Hill on Monday. “We are going to make sure that we expand on different programs for the under educated and the uninsured.”
Wills vowed to fight for affordable healthcare and opening new medical clinics, and expanding youth services by bringing a youth and community center to the district.
“Ruben is time tested,” said Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans). “He has done everything that we have asked him to do regarding being involved in community life, being involved in making sure people were being taken care of, working to help start nonprofits, working to help people from all over the community gain access to government.”
Wills served as an assistant to Comrie in the past and he was also former chief of staff to state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), who fresh off a landslide victory to retain her seat, turned out to endorse him.
“Ruben is a people person,” Huntley said. “Ruben enjoys the community. He enjoys helping people, either paid or free. Some people just work for money and some people work no matter what, and that’s the type of person Ruben is.”
Wills is no stranger to politics having run against Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) in 2008 and then for White’s seat last year. It was during that race that he showed a different side of himself to the public when he allegedly tried to punch one opponent, former Councilman Allan Jennings, but missed, striking an aide. That incident, however, did not seem to have much effect on his image, if the outpouring of support Wills received Monday afternoon is any indication.
“I’ve known Ruben since before he got involved in the community and I have always admired him as a sincere, honest person,” said Democratic District Leader Jacqueline Boyce. “And that’s what we will get in the City Council. Someone who is kind, honest and caring and who is going to work very hard for the community.”
Wills also received praise from several religious leaders, whose collective support along with that of their congregations is believed by some to be what put Huntley over the top.
“I have known Ruben for a number of years and I have seen him active in our community, particularly when it comes to youth,” said the Rev. Charles Norris. “He is capable of taking care of a community of this kind. We are glad to see people of all different ethnicities who have come out to support him as he seeks this spot.”
Those supporters included military veteran leaders Marvin Jeffcoat and Steve Epps, along with Khalsha-Ji Rajinder Singh Bammi, the county Committeeman from the 31st Assembly District.
In addition to Wills, nine candidates have filed the necessary paperwork to receive matching funds for the race, according to the city’s Campaign Finance Board: Nicole Paultre-Bell, Lynn Nunes along with his sister Elaine, Albert Baldeo, Charles Bilal, Martha Butler, Vishnu Mahadeo, Hettie Powell and Harpreet Toor.
Photo: Ruben Wills, center, with wife Marcia, second from left, announces his run for City Council surrounded by supporters including Democratic District Leader Jacqueline Boyce, left; state Sen. Shirley Huntley, with her director of veterans affairs, Lester Muse, behind her; Democratic Party Committeeman Khalsha-Ji Rajinder Singh Bammi; and City Councilman Leroy Comrie.