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Danville Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. cites “strong stewardship” as he seeks election to a second term.

Danville Mayor Rickey Williams, Jr.
Danville Mayor Rickey Williams Jr., in a 2020 photo taken at his office.

Voters in Danville will decide if Rickey Williams Junior gets to serve a second full term as mayor, or if the job goes to Vermilion Housing Authority executive director Jackie Vinson. Illinois Newsroom’s Jim Meadows spoke with Mayor Williams on March 13 at Danville Area Community College, where he was about to appear with Vinson at a candidates forum. 

Williams, a Danville alderman at the time, was appointed by the council to serve as mayor in 2018, and elected to a full term in 2019.  Williams says as mayor, he led a city that faced many challenges.

(Interview edited for length and clarity)

WILLIAMS: You know, there were lots of challenges that I anticipated in terms of infrastructure, neighborhood improvements that needed made, economic development. However, we were hit hard with a worldwide pandemic that I didn’t anticipate. And I just am especially proud of the progress that Danville has made, considering all that the world has been through in the last four years.

JM: What do you consider some of your strongest accomplishments for the city?

WILLIAMS: Definitely strong stewardship. When I took over, we only had $300,000 in our reserves. Currently, we ended last fiscal year with almost $9.3 million in our reserve. That’s after getting up to over $11 million, and spending it back down to $1.2. Our police and fire pensions are 4.4% and 7.4%, better funded than when I took over. And we’ve made a lot of progress in terms of infrastructure, improved 32 miles of sewer, touched over 25% of our roads in just the last year alone and 40% over the last four years. And we tore down over 300 dilapidated structures throughout the community that I think have made a big difference on how people
feel and perceive our city.

JM: The challenge, I guess, right next to needed demolition is being able to bring in new construction and new development. How is the city doing on that? And how do you think you’ve made a difference in it?

WILLIAMS:  Well, we’ve had over $250 million in new economic development in terms of expansions and actual new developments. You look at the Carle and Christie at the riverfront, $85 million. At the casino we’re almost at $110 million. And then other expansions, for example, at Viscofan,
over $25 million, and several others. So we are doing a good job. I’m really excited that we have a couple of housing developments in the works as well.

JM: What qualities do you feel is needed for somebody to be an effective mayor? What qualities do you feel you have that that contribute to that?

WILLIAMS: First and foremost, you have to have integrity, you have to be someone that’s honest. And people have to believe that they can trust you, that they can count on you, and that you’re always working in their best interest. So integrity is number one. Second is honesty. As I’ve mentioned, you have to be truthful with the people that you serve and share both the good and the bad. And the other thing that I think that’s really important is that you’re transparent, that people know what you’re doing when you’re doing it and how you’re doing it. And I’m really proud of the steps that our administration has taken to live that value of transparency.

JM: Your opponent has raised questions about transparency in city government. But it sounds like you’re saying that you are already doing the job in that area.

WILLIAMS: We are. For example, we started putting the entire agenda packet online versus just the agenda previously. So the people have the same access to the information that the aldermen do at about the same time. I think that’s a huge step forward. We always bring things to the community for consideration. For example, when we talked about ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds, we had three different listening sessions throughout the community at which they
could bring feedback. And they told us at that time that over 40% of them wanted additional recreational opportunities. So we have been listening to the people. We have heard them and we are doing what they’ve asked.

JM: And finally, just looking ahead, What difference do you feel that you as mayor make in the direction that the city goes in?

WILLIAMS: Most importantly, I bring integrity to the situation. In the past. So we had members of the leadership team, you know, department and division heads who ruled like tyrants. They treated the public and their employees and businesses terribly. We have a culture of respect under the Mayor Williams administration, and we make sure that we treat everyone fairly across the board. And I think that’s the huge difference, is that instead of working for the select interests of a very few we work for everyone t

Picture of Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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