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Leonardo Williams

Title: Mayor

Municipality: City of Durham

Position Interested In: Population-based Seat - Durham

Tell us why you would like to serve in a leadership position at the League. In particular, specify goals you would like to accomplish as an officer or board member and indicate how, if attained, they will help to achieve Vision 2030 – the League’s future vision of how cities and towns will operate in 2030.

The league has set forth an ambitious pathway to strengthening our state. As Mayor of one of NC's most aggressively growing cities, I am committed to contributing my unique approach to governing through relationships, partnerships, and evolving policy creatively. Beyond the dias of my city's council, through the NCLM, I am certain I can build bridges amongst our rural and urban regions to prepare for new economic norms, ensure that opportunity is accessible, growth is inclusive.

Tell us about your experience as a municipal official. You may want to include information on your service on the municipal governing body, other related boards and special areas of interest.

Durham prides itself in being the progressive beacon of the South. However, with such a tag in NC, one must define clearly its intent. I will do so through the lens of my experience. I can appreciate the diversity of thought found across the landscape of NC; from crazy conservative to problematically progressive. As a Two Time Teacher of the Year and leader of  NC's largest nonprofit for public schools to now a small business owner, opening the nation's first Authentic Zimbabwean restaurant, I have explored society from one end of the spectrum to other. I understand the tensions between the social classes and economic classes and the need to intentionally blur those lines. It is that very understanding that drove my convening ability to engage more citizens of the Durham community, bringing together republicans and democrats to unite behind my campaign to highlight the need for a small business presence in Durham's leadership, the need for interlocal agreements that holistically sets course for a stronger local economy that is equitable at every level of socio-economic status. I also serve on our region's MPO for transportation, visitors bureau board, citizens advisory board, housing appeals board, legislative committee, procedures committee, museum of Durham history, Durham youth commission, and our Triangle J Council of Governments Core,

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Tell us about your educational background, professional experience, and/or community or civic activities. 

My background began in Education, holding a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education and a Master in Educational Leadership. I have served as Chair of multiple foundations across North Carolina in the areas of education, music, environmental, and civic. Prior to being elected, I established the Durham Small Business Coalition which resulted in coordinating a $3 million fund to sustain small businesses during the pandemic. This fund is now facilitated by the city of Durham and is available for small locally owned businesses meeting special criteria. This was a great example of government being shaped by it’s constituents and our government being efficient enough to execute. I was recently tasked with facilitating the process to disburse ARPA funds to the Durham community. Now, I will be setting course for a binary (macro/micro) plan for economic development for the city of Durham.

Have You Participated in Any NCLM Events or Committees? 

  • ​CityVision Annual Conference

  • Town & State Dinner or Town Hall Days

  • Legislative Goals Planning Events or Process

  • Regional Meetings

  • Legislative Lobby Days

  • Legislative Policy Committee

  • Affiliate Organizations: US Conference of Mayors, Metro Mayors, NC Mayor Assn, Harvard Mayors Cohort, and Yale’s CEO & Mayors Summit. 

Please provide any other information you would like the Nominations Committee to consider.

I’m extremely qualified to carry forward to mutual interest of the League, with pride and purpose.

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