Williams Mayor Elect, Obama Wins Re-Election

Updated 6 years ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor

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Williams Mayor Elect, Obama Wins Re-Election
Photo by Austin Sanders

After learning that he would be Huntington’s new Mayor, Steve Williams, at large council member and president of Marshall’s M Club, made an 8 a.m. appointment with Marshall University President Stephen J. Kopp. Since the university is the city’s largest employer Williams wanted to begin establishing more partnerships with the university.

“Any city that has become exceptional has a strong relationship with its local university. We have entered into partnerships with Marshall University, the Stone & Thomas building is an example.” Clarifying his “exceptional city” definition, Williams added, “I’m not talking pipe dreams. I’m talking about exceeding your best. By doing that we can create unbelievable opportunity that can only occur through a partnership with Marshall University.”

During the campaign he has repeatedly emphasized the area surrounding A.C.F. as a potential zone for Tex Increment Financing. Previously, a Marshall baseball stadium and mixed use private development had been proposed, but the developers could not finalize private investors although they would receive state stimulus funds if investors had been found.

Defining the opportunity as “not necessarily” that which had been previously proposed, Williams said, “We just know what the opportunity is there. There have been conversations with some of our legislative delegation about being active an active partner from the city, reach out to the university and the state. You start a three legged stool. For that matter, a more stable stool would be a four  legged stool,” which he described as a partnership with the university, the city, state and private investors. “If we could get help from the federal government that would be the fifth leg of the stool and it would transform the city.”

When he takes office, Williams, a Marshall graduate and former Marshall football player on the “Young Thundering Herd,” will have five new faces on council. Three of the city legislative body’s strongest financial watchdogs --- Nate Randolph, Jim Insco, and himself will not be in one of the eleven seats.

Asked about the new composition of council, Williams explained that his move to the corner seat assures “we will make certain that we run our city efficiently , we will milk every penny out of the budget that we can , and we will be collecting taxes due to us.”

Mary Williams (center) and Steve's two daughters
Mary Williams (center) and Steve's two daughters

As to council’s financial expertise, “the reason I was strong on council was the leadership void and I stepped in to that. It’s what led me to feel that I needed to run for mayor. The leadership will still be there, but it will be in a different position, where it should be, in the Mayor’s office.

But, council member will not be waiting until January or March to begin budget discussion. “One of the things [my transition team] will start doing immediately which will be no surprise to anybody who knows this is city hall, we’re going to start working on the budget immediately, start receiving budget proposals. The last thing I want to do is walk in January 1 and start putting a budget together. One advantage I have that no one has ever had coming in at City Hall is a sitting council member becoming mayor. It hasn’t happened before. I’m the chair of the Finance Committee . I have worked with all these department heads. We will start immediately putting a budget together.

Acknowledging the current increase in vacant building arsons, the Mayor-elect responded by stressing the need to fill abandoned structures with employees and households.

 “We have to make sure that we have an aggressive program in city government promoting development downtown and  promoting investment downtown, so that we can give people an opportunity to invest in the city . Give them a value proposition --- a professional police force, professional fire protection, and we’re going to make sure that your streets are clean and paved. ---- at a price less than any other city in the region. That’s a value proposition to encourage people to invest in the area. It’s called salesmanship.”

“All the players are people that I have worked with for the last 30 years. People started to realize that. Keith Burdette, secretary of commerce, and I served together in the legislature. Every member of his industrial and economic development staff are people I worked with 30 years ago when I was economic development director in Huntington and Putnam County. The players have not changed. We look a little more gray and we have much more experience under our belt.”

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