ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – In this weeks edition of Big Country Politics, News Director Manny Diaz sat down with Mayor Anthony Williams to chat about his time as the mayor of Abilene.
Mayor Williams announced in November that he would not be seeking reelection for a third term. KTAB/KRBC took some time to visit and look back on accomplishments, challenges and what the future may hold.
“Abilene has been very very kind and said a number of very nice things about me and my service, which means an awful lot to me,” Williams expressed. “Abilene is my home town and I also appreciate those who recognize my service and are appreciative of the time that I’ve given over the last 20 years.”
Throughout two decades of serving, Williams faced some challenges, such as the 2018 tornado and the snow of 2021, but one challenge stuck out above the rest.
“I can’t think of a more challenging time to be mayor during covid-19 and the uncertainty that existed and the need to make decisions on the fly… It was kinda like building an airplane in flight,” Williams recalled.
Even though Abilene has faced some troubling times, he said that he was able to work through these challenges with the helpful hand from the community.
“We have a good team here. I mean the city administration and volunteers… I felt well equipped because of those serving with me,” Williams explained.
When he first ran for office in 2017, his priorities were economic development and building a better life for the citizens of Abilene, something he stills holds close to his heart.
“I made a commitment that myself and the city administration would do the best job we could to facilitate opportunities to help Abilene grow economically,” Williams explained. “I believe, when that women or that man has a good paying job, they have dignity. And if they’re a family, that unit has dignity. When families have dignity, they would engage in ways that they would not do so.”
Some of the ways the city and Mayor Williams stressed this was by providing new jobs and increasing wages. He stated that there were more jobs created or maintained in the last three years then the past 15 years.
While Williams has changed the economic capabilities of the town, he also focused on diversity inclusion as the first African-American mayor of Abilene.
“I take a lot of pride in that. Having said that, I hope I’m remembered as a great mayor of Abilene,”
Williams said he believes he has done a good job of including minorities and that during this time, it is very important, not just in Abilene, but in the whole country.
“There are more young black men, between 18 and 26 that are in French Robertson and the Middleton unit and Taylor County Jail that attend ACU, McMurry, Hardin-Simmons and TSTC and that is a fact.”
Growing up, he was inspired by African-American figures and looked up to them for ways to be a leader.
“I’ve taken my role as a role model to the minority community very seriously. I’m very very careful to watch what I say when people have said things that were not nice or mean spirited,” Williams explained. “If you note, I have never returned behavior that would not be fitting the role of mayor.”
While serving as the first African-American mayor of Abilene, Williams knew that he was making an impact for the next generation.
“I’ve never lead with my ethnicity, but I never denied the impact that I’ve had to set an expectation to make it easier for the young women or young man of color who may follow me.”
While Williams was running for mayor, he said his ethnicity never came up throughout the election, which to him, says a lot about the people of Abilene.
“I’m not saying that Abilene doesn’t have racial issues, we certainly do in our community, but as the first non-white male to be elected to be mayor, I think that says an awful lot about Abilene,” Williams recalled. “I’m hopeful, in our community, that we can do things in a way that may be an example to other cities throughout the state and throughout the country.”
Another achievement that Williams and the City of Abilene has done is bring new, higher paying jobs. Throughout history, Abilene has typically been underemployed, rather than not having enough jobs to fill, but he wanted to help build a good life for Abilenians.
“We’ve had some great, great opportunities for employment in Abilene and I would say our folks deserve that. Our families deserve that opportunity to make a good living,” Williams expressed. “The benefits and fruits of that continue to be a blessing to our community.”
In November, Mayor Williams announced that he joined transition team for Dr. Dawn Buckingham, Texas Land Commissioner who succeeds George P. Bush. When he received the invitation, he was very thankful.
“I was flattered, I think a lot of Dr. Buckingham, her service to the state and was really honored that she thought of an Abilene mayor to include me to be around the table as she makes this transition,” said Williams. “I think she’ll do some pretty great things. I’m very proud of Dawn and I’m very hopeful for her leadership in her new role.”
He has volunteered for the community for 30 years, with 21 years of serving as a city official. When asked about why he chose to not run for re-election, he said “I would rather leave too early then stay too long.”
During this time, he plans to focus on being a better husband and father. He appreciates all that his family has sacrificed for his role as mayor and believes it is time to focus more on his family.
“I’ve enjoyed serving in Abilene and perhaps, I may serve again at a different level, or I may be a full time Grandpa.”