DANVILLE – Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. has been in office for more than 100 days and he’s been so busy he’s still trying to catch his breath.
There have been a lot of big issues that will significantly affect the city in the long run including a new casino, marijuana bill and new Carle medical campus.
There also are a lot of other projects and duties keeping him busy including trying to find a Ward 1 alderman replacement, filling open city positions such as corporation counsel and fire chief, and working on downtown and neighborhood projects.
“It’s been everything I thought it would be,” Williams said, but added some aspects have been particularly challenging.
“Communication is a key one,” he said.
He said it’s a challenge to keep up with all the forms of communication he receives daily.
That can include an average of 300 emails a day (sometimes it’s 200 and another day he counted 407), about 30 or more phone calls to return a day, scheduled meetings, persons who go to city hall to talk to him and other messages he receives to catch up on and follow-up.
One day last week he counted more than 1,600 emails in his inbox that still needed to be followed up on.
“What I love is that we’re getting focused,” he said about city departments and divisions.
He said the city is proceeding with asset management and a streets plan. He said they are figuring out “where we’ve been and where we need to go.”
Williams said he’s seeing improvements in customer service and responses to citizens and businesses by city personnel.
He said the city’s law enforcement, despite violence still occurring, is forming more partnerships within the community, building relationships and working toward solutions to issues.
“I love my team,” Williams said about city staff.
He said city employees are focused on helping citizens and reaching out to the public more. He said one example is the fire department organizing the National Night Out activities to spread fire safety and other information to families.
“I think we’re re-establishing a strong sense of community again,” Williams said.
Williams said he’s good at fixing things, but dealing with multiple city projects of such importance all at once has been a balancing act.
“I love being challenged,” he said.
Some upcoming and continuing projects include: wrapping up zoning for the Carle redevelopment project; zoning for the casino; selling vacant lots to neighbors and this fall addressing drainage issues; new sidewalks; additional parking; and Harrison Street improvements adjacent to the Fischer Theatre.
Williams said they’ve talked about having the city’s own Walk of Fame near the Fischer Theatre and highlighting celebrities from the city. He said having the theater open again downtown is "going to be incredible."
New City Engineer Sam Cole also is assessing citywide projects.