By Jim Hunt for the News and Journal
Over my career, I have met hundreds, if not thousands, of mayors. Some have been from big
cities, like Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles and Mayor Tony Williams of Washington, DC, or
small towns, like Mayor Ted Ellis of Bluffton, Indiana.
A mayor is generally not a lifetime job and most last about eight years, if not less. Being a mayor is a tough job and there is a lot to learn and many challenges to overcome. There is no school to attend to learn how to be mayor and many learn on the job.
Some mayors are what are called “strong mayors”, which means that they are the chief administrative officer of a city and supervise the staff, along with preparing budgets and proposing legislation for the city council to consider.
Another type of mayor is called a “weak mayor” and this does not mean they are physically weak, but rather, that they perform ceremonial duties, like cutting ribbons and issuing proclamations, and leaving the administrative duties to a city manager or city administrator.
Of all the mayors that I have known, one stands out for many reasons. For one, he has been the
mayor of his town since the age of twenty-four and has served for over forty-seven years. He
has been involved in hundreds of projects and worked with seven different governors during his
tenure. He led the effort to build a new city hall and has helped rebuild his city’s downtown
core to a viable and quaint shopping area.
Mayor Williams has received many honors during his time as Mayor of Spencer and has served as President of the West Virginia Municipal League three times, along with being selected as Mayor of the Year and received the league’s Quiet Strength Award. He has served as President of the Black Walnut Festival five times and was recognized by his alma mater, Glenville State College for their 2019 Alumni Achievement Award.
While his honors and recognitions are substantial, his most impressive feat is his ability to inject
a human touch to the often-staid approach to local government. Meetings are never boring
when Mayor Williams is in the room and his zingers are often directed at those who are the
most strait-laced and stoic.
He is in charge of presenting the West Virginia Municipal League’s “Mayor of the Year” award each year and as he reads the description of the honoree, with their family in attendance, it is hard to tell if they are the state’s best mayor or one of the ten most wanted criminals. At meetings, there is usually a crowd gathered around him and his stories are legendary.
One that he particularly enjoys telling is about the USDA loan officer who was processing the final payment of a 40-year loan the city had taken out, and he asks the Mayor ifhe is the same guy who signed the original document and upon learning that he was, exclaimed, “I don’t think we’ve ever had the guy who signed for the loan, still being around when it was paid off!”
Terry laughs when he tells the story, but this is a rare instance indeed.
More than humor, Mayor Terry Williams has formed lifelong friendships throughout the state
of West Virginia, and I have seen his care and compassion when a fellow official is going
through a tough time. The late Tom Oxley of Oak Hill, WV was a frequent target of Terry’s barbs
and the two had a close friendship through the years.
When Tom fell ill, Terry kept in touch with him and did his best to keep his spirits up. Mayor Williams did a touching tribute to Tom at the league conference in Wheeling and there was not a dry eye in the crowd.
Politics can be a heartless, humorless endeavor and many times we forget that there are
human beings in these roles, performing a public service, through the slings and arrows of an
often-unforgiving public. I have been honored to know many of these outstanding leaders and
Mayor Terry Williams is one of the best.
With his wife, Carol at his side, he has carried the hopes and dreams of his little town of Spencer, on his shoulders for nearly half a century, as he carved a career that few could have endured for so many years.