A Second Chance

Newly elected mayor Steve Williams plans to set the bar high by demanding an exceptional Huntington

Steve Williams

By Carter Taylor Seaton

Photos by Rick Lee

An old adage says opportunity knocks only once. Mayor-elect Steve Williams doesn't buy it. He believes it keeps knocking. From 1984 to 1986, Williams was Huntington's City Manager, but when the strong mayor/city council form was adopted, he left city government. In 1993 he ran for mayor but lost to Jean Dean. Now, in January, he will take the oath of office for the job he always thought he was supposed to be doing. Back then he was an idealistic 28-year-old. Now, almost 28 years later, the more experienced visionary has his sights set on creating an exceptional city in the place he calls home.

He uses Michelangelo's quote to explain: "The greater danger for most of us is not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark." He says, "Huntington has been guilty of that, but we can do better. An exceptional city is created by design, not by happenstance. The way I see Huntington becoming different is for people to start realizing anything we set our minds to accomplish, we can do."

For him as Mayor, that means providing world-class delivery of services through responsible fiscal management at City Hall. It means providing customer friendly municipal services. It means encouraging creative neighborhood development. It means introducing world-class innovation, investment and development. It means creating jobs through that innovation.

Local entrepreneur Kirk Dodrill, the financial manager of Steve's campaign, has known him since he moved to Huntington, as a high schooler, from tiny Athens, West Virginia.

"With his experience in economic development, the legislature and business, I don't think we have ever had a candidate better qualified," Dodrill said. Williams spent 20 years in the financial services industry, rising to senior level positions in West Virginia and the Midwest. Yet, although he's not a native son, the tug of Huntington, his beloved wife Mary and his family proved so strong he left his highly successful investment banking career in Chicago to come home.

"Even though I left, I was never gone. Despite my success, all I wanted to do was come home," he says, choking up.

He has big dreams: a research park that takes advantage of the research and development programs at Marshall University and medical research through St. Mary's and Cabell Huntington Hospital, an expanded commercial district in the 14th Street West area and growth in the downtown area. He sees a next generation Wi-Fi network and Tax Increment Funding (TIF) districts around the city. He sees pristine - not just clean - corridors leading into the city and commercial development along Hal Greer Boulevard. However, as he says, "I'm convinced dreams are one thing; but you have to create expectations. Dreams get your heart beating, but the expectation creates the payday."

He believes an exceptional Huntington can be the payday for the opportunity that knocked on his door once again.

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