Six months ago, when Rickey Williams Jr. was sworn in as acting mayor, his mother could not be there, because she had surgery that day after a breast-cancer diagnosis earlier in the year.
With that struggle now behind her and a clean bill of health, Laura Williams was in the front row Tuesday night at the Robert E. Jones Municipal Building with her husband, Rickey Williams Sr., to see their son officially put away the interim title and be sworn in as Danville’s new mayor — the city’s first black mayor — in a standing-room-only council chambers.
“I’m so excited to be in his corner,” said his mother, adding that she had been thinking earlier in the day about helping her son make campaign buttons in elementary school when he ran for class president.“As far back as grade school, this is what he’s always wanted to do ... I’m glad he stuck to his dream.”
Through tears just after his swearing in, Williams thanked his parents for their guidance and support, along with those who helped in his campaign, and thanked voters as well.
“I don’t take your trust and support lightly,” he said.
His father, a retired assistant warden at the Danville Correctional Center and Danville Area Community College instructor, said this was one of his son’s first goals in life, and he feels honored that the people honored his son by voting for him.
“Of course, I’m happy. He’s wanted this goal,” said Williams Sr.
After serving as an alderman for nearly a decade, Williams threw his hat into the ring in October to be interim mayor for six months following former Mayor Scott Eisenhauer’s decision to take the village administrator job in Rantoul.
Aldermen elected Williams their interim leader, and on April 2, voters in Danville elected him to a four-year term.
To his parents and his younger sister, Amy, he’s R.J., said Rickey Williams Sr., but they’re very excited to see where their son takes the city they call home. Williams Sr. said his son knows the direction he wants to take to make Danville “one city again” and become “a force for the betterment of the community.”
He said Williams was raised to make decisions because they are the right thing to do rather than because they serve special interests, yet he also realizes that not all of his decisions will make everyone happy.
Williams Sr. said he has already seen his son make some tough decisions as interim mayor.
“He’s made them with honor and dignity and respect, and I’m just thankful and just happy to be his father,” he said.
Laura Williams, who runs the Adult Education Department at DACC, said the day her son was sworn in as acting mayor was both a “horrendous day and a day of elation.”
But Tuesday night was different.
“It’s all happy,” said Laura Williams, who added it’s not just about her son but also about getting her hometown turned around.
“More than anything, I can’t wait to see where he’s going to take Danville. It’s exciting to be his mom, but I’m just as excited to be a citizen. ... I was born here. I want us to flourish, and son or not, he is the best person for the job, and I’m glad people got behind him.”