New Durham mayor Leonardo Williams delivers 'robust and ambitious' plan for Bull City

DeJuan Hoggard Image
Tuesday, January 9, 2024
Durham Mayor unveils master plan for future of Bull City
New Mayor Leonardo Williams announced his top three priorities as economic development, workforce development, and community development.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- In his first news conference as mayor of Durham, Leonardo "Leo" Williams addressed members of the media and a small audience inside City Hall.

"It's about the community," said Williams, who was flanked by Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton, councilwoman Javiera Caballero, and other members. "We are going to set some new priorities. They are going to be robust and ambitious. But that is also how we define them as being Durham."

He announced his top three priorities as economic development, workforce development, and community development.

"There are a lot of details I couldn't share. And I can't share just yet," said Williams when pressed for specifics. "But I want to make sure the product has been completed before we actually present it to the public."

His priority announcement comes less than a month after city councilmembers voted against renewing the city's contract with the controversial ShotSpotter technology.

Williams said he has been receiving messages from residents since the technology was disabled.

"It means you have to go back to getting used to the police coming to your home to respond to what you called them for," Williams said in response to the messages he received. "When you have the technology that actually addressed the lived experience of people and they start to feel safe and then you take it away, that is, I consider bad policy."

Democracy is messy, Democracy does not mean we are going to always agree.
Leo Williams

Williams said he expects to have some level of opposition to his plans.

"Politics is politics," he said. "And there may be resistance. But what that means is there's democracy. Councilwoman Javiera Caballero and I don't necessarily agree on everything, but we work well together."

Concerning economic development, Williams said he would like to see the city's marketability and branding grow to invite tourism dollars, and he is hopeful a new, and in his opinion much-needed, convention center will be an economic driver for the city.

Additionally, Williams said having strong relationships with employers and Research Triangle Park will help the city attract and retain talent in the workforce.

He also said that the city should rely on local, notable figures for assistance with its community development aspect -- speaking of Duke head basketball coach Jon Scheyer and NC Central head basketball coach LeVelle Moton.

"We need to pull in (their) personal relationships to bring folks that our youth really look up to," said Williams. "And that's taking a really holistic, but also an ambitious approach to ensuring that you're talking less about crime and more so about time when it comes to our youth being engaged."

Williams identified the city's youth and young ethnic minorities as demographics worth investing into; and has since garnered grants to support his efforts.

And he said he feels it will take everyone's collective effort.

"Democracy is messy," he said. "Democracy does not mean we are going to always agree. But democracy will produce an outcome of people and a reflection of a myriad of perspectives," he said. "I may not always agree with the outcome. But the fact that we can sit down and be civil and have a conversation whether we agree or not."