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Courage in a Crisis

Mayor Vince Williams of Union City is a Dedicated Leader in the Midst of a Pandemic

As the world around him adjusts to the coronavirus outbreak, Union City Mayor Vince Williams carries on with the same attention to detail, commitment and effort that made him one of Georgia’s premier municipal leaders.

At the same time, Williams has placed special emphasis during this crisis on being a symbol of patience, strength and optimism. He talks daily to the town’s business leaders and makes himself accessible to citizens without fail, presenting an outlook that promotes better days ahead.

“This is all so different. . . for everyone,” Williams said. “This pandemic is real and it’s important for me to make sure the citizens and business community understand that and adhere to the guidelines of social distancing to stay safe.”

“Also, it’s important that they know I am here for them in any way. Union City is a loving community and we are in this together. It’s neighbors helping neighbors in various ways.”

Williams continues to go to the office daily, with a skeleton staff of about six in the building, all maintaining social distance for safety purposes. He works when he gets home, too, just as he did pre-COVID-19.

Some of the work is different, though. He was selected by Brian Kemp to be on the coronavirus Governor’s Advisory Task Force, so he participates in daily briefings and helps write legislation. He has been a guest on Yahoo! Live and CNBC to share his perspective on the stay-at-home-world. Often, he briefs local media on the virus’ spread, while also serving as first vice president of the Georgia Municipal Association and second VP of the National League of Cities. He will assume president duties of both organizations this year.

But Union City comes first.

“I created a resource document that helps guide our small business owners on how to get certain benefits,” Williams said. “We have major corporations in our city, but it’s our small businesses that make us go.”

One of Williams’ noteworthy accomplishments since becoming the 20th mayor of Union City in 2013 was rebuilding its finances that “were not in a happy place” to a stunning surplus. So, as the coronavirus plummets other cities—Union City had 45 coronavirus cases as of late April—Williams has spent $400,000 that was included in the annual budget, primarily on police and firefighting services and other essential city workers.

“They are on the frontlines and we care and thank them for their bravery,” Williams said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Working from home for City Hall employees has not been a difficult adjustment, as he implemented partial teleworking in his administration two years ago.

“It’s been a smooth transition for us,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been disappointments.”

Disappointments like having to cancel Williams’ State of the City address, the annual Easter Egg Hunt and opening day for youth baseball, among other activities. But lots awaits Union City.

Williams wants three more multimillion-dollar community centers in other parts of the city like the year-old The City Center that is one of the town’s crown jewels. He has plans to turn 1,000 acres of land into lush parks. And Williams is proud of the various construction projects that are underway and the multimillion dollar sports complex.

When the coronavirus passes, Williams has vast plans for the city.

“We will have an amazing celebration,” Williams said. “We will have earned it.”