HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, who first took office in his Cabell County city in 2013, will be running for a third term in 2020.
“I still have a lot of work to finish. You don’t start a job and walk away before its done,” he said.
“Where Huntington is now versus where it was, we’re doing things that nobody ever imagined would be possible in Huntington.”
Williams talked about his reelection plans with MetroNews on Friday after a trip to New York City earlier in the week as one of the 41 mayors from ten countries, and the only mayor out of West Virginia, in the third class of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.
The year-long executive training program designed specifically for city leaders is a collaboration involving the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School and Bloomberg Philanthropies with the goal of providing professional growth for those involved.
Participants include Adelaide, Australia Mayor Sandy Verschoor; Accra, Ghana Mayor Mohammed Adjei-Sowah; Austin, Texas Mayor Steve Adler; Chicago, Illinois Mayor Lori Lightfoot; Dallas, Texas Mayor Eric Johnson and San Francisco, California Mayor London Breed among many others.
See the full list HERE.
“It was just inspiring,” Williams said. “What was fascinating is, we’re all sitting there as peers, and (no matter the city size) we all have the same things in common.”
After this week’s in-person training, six more virtual classroom sessions were scheduled over the next year for the mayors who’ll be learning from Harvard professors and from each other.
For Williams, one early takeaway was the importance of data in city decisions.
“It’s helpful for us to see that we’re not making decisions driven by politics, but we’re making decisions based on data and evidence-based solutions and it makes us provide better services and enhance the lives of the citizens living in our communities,” he said.
In addition to Williams, two senior-level officials from Huntington will join their counterparts from other cities in August as part of a companion program in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and also participate in virtual classes through the year.
They are Cathy Burns, executive director of the Huntington Municipal Development Authority, and Bryan Chambers, communications director.
Bloomberg Philanthropies is covering full costs for all three of the Huntington participants.
Last year, Huntington was named one of the nine winning cities in the Bloomberg Philanthropies U.S. Mayors Challenge and received $1 million to address compassion fatigue in first responders on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic.
In 2017, Huntington won the $3 million grand prize for the America’s Best Communities competition.
Overall, Williams said he knew he had critics as he prepared for his reelection big but, he noted, “They can’t say we’re not being more aggressive than anybody has ever been.”
In Huntington, mayors can serve for up to three consecutive terms.
A graduate of Marshall University and West Virginia University, Williams is a former investment banker.
In 1984, he started out as economic development director in Huntington before becoming city manager that same year as the youngest city manager in Huntington history.
He went on to represent both Cabell County and Wayne County in the state House of Delegates from 1987 to 1994, according to information from his Huntington bio.
He was elected to Huntington City Council in 2008 prior to being elected mayor in 2012.
For 2015-2016, the West Virginia Municipal League named him “Mayor of the Year.”
He dropped a bid for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District in early 2018.