Rickey Williams Jr.

As final votes were being cast early Tuesday evening, April 2, 2019, acting Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. was getting ready to preside over Danville City Council meeting. Williams handily won the election and will now be able to drop the ‘acting’ from his title.

Rickey Williams Jr. can drop the “acting” from his mayor’s title now.

By more than a 1,000-vote margin over second place candidate James McMahon, Williams easily won April 2’s four-way race for mayor of Danville amid low voter turnout — 4,504 of 17,365 registered voters, or 26 percent, cast ballots.

After learning of his election, Williams said Tuesday night, “I literally fell to my knees, cheering and thanking God.”

He said he hopes the citizens know that every day he is going to give them his all.

“This is serious to me,” he said.

According to unofficial results from the Danville Election Commission, Williams pulled in 2,153 votes, followed by McMahon with 1,080 votes. Alderman Steve Nichols finished third with 857 votes, and Donald Crews fourth with 396.

Williams, 41, said that leading the city government in the town where he grew up has been a goal since he was 18 years old.

In October, he convinced his fellow aldermen to give him the job on a temporary basis when former Mayor Scott Eisenhauer left to be city manager in Rantoul.

But this election, the voters weighed in and gave him the job for the next four years. He will be sworn in on May 7 with the seven aldermen who also won their elections.

Presiding over the Danville City Council meeting earlier Tuesday as acting mayor, Williams commended all the candidates who ran for the city’s municipal offices, saying that he was pleased there were five contested races for alderman. He also said he hopes for more next time, because it shows people care about their city, and democracy benefits with more choices.

Despite the political risk of serving as interim mayor in the five months leading up to the election, Williams has not hesitated to push for personnel cuts and tax and fee increases to balance a difficult budget that aldermen will vote on later this month. And he went ahead and named an interim public safety director last week despite the desire of some aldermen to wait until after the election.

Listing crime as one of the city’s biggest issues, Williams has said he wants to return the city to having a police chief and fire chief oversee their respective departments rather than a public safety director over both.

He said that right away he’s going to begin working on job descriptions for the two positions, “because we have to get on that right away.”

Williams will be only the third Danville mayor in the last 32 years, following two four-term leaders in former Mayor Bob Jones, who decided not to seek a fifth term, and Eisenhauer, who left for Rantoul in early November while in the last year of his fourth term as mayor. He’ll also be the city’s first black mayor.