Jon Williams has served Winter Garden as assistant city manager for public services since 2018, but he will begin 2022 with a new job and an ongoing focus on some long-term projects.
The list of services under Williams’ supervision includes: utilities, engineering, streets and stormwater, waste and capital improvements. He has overseen the construction of a new water storage and pumping plant, the expansion of a wastewater recycling plant and several road improvements. But his latest challenge came when former mayor Mike Bollhoefer announced his resignation during the city commission’s meeting on October 14. A proposal to promote Williams as interim mayor was made minutes later by Winter Garden Mayor John Rees.
“Everything I have observed from him has been positive,” Rees said of the decision to promote Williams. “He works well with the public, has a financial background, he is very knowledgeable, and he has had this kind of experience in the past.”
Hearing Williams talk about his experience is a lesson in humility. His biggest blessings are his wife, Dorothy, who was his high school girlfriend, and their daughter, Emily, who is currently attending the University of Florida College of Nursing.
“I’m pretty much an open book,” he said. “Not a particularly exciting guy.”
But that is really not the case.
“When we have development opportunities ahead of us, we go to great lengths to look at the city’s history and how any new development will fit into that history. It is an important process, but it is a process that is already there, so from my perspective it is not very difficult. ”
– Jon Williams
Williams moved to Florida in 1979 from Columbus, Ohio. He attended New Smyrna Beach High School and decided, like many graduates, that he needed some time to find his way.
“I was a non-traditional student,” he said. “I finished high school and wasn’t really sure what I wanted with my life. I went into the military and then went back to school to get my degree. “
He spent seven years in the Army National Guard, from 1989-95, but his path to public service became apparent during the summer of 1992.
“I was deployed with the National Guard to provide emergency assistance after Hurricane Andrew came through,” he said. “It was probably my turning point, my ‘aha moment’, if you will,” he said.
Williams was 19 years old when he witnessed the devastation of the Category 5 hurricane in Miami-Dade County.
“I was relatively young,” he said. “Of course it was a devastating storm for South Florida. So it was a bit of a shock to be deployed and experience it on your own. But you know, through that process, we provided assistance with food distribution, security, distribution of clothing.” really got a sense of accomplishment and went from there knowing that we were making a measurable difference in people’s lives.It was after that experience that I knew I wanted to work in public services somehow.It really stiffened it for me.”
After his National Guard service, Williams attended the University of Central Florida, where he majored in business administration with a concentration in accounting, and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2004. He served the city of Edgewater as a code enforcer from 1999 to 2000 and as CFO from 2002-06. He then took on the role of mayor for 18 months, from 2006-2007.
Further experience with the city council came from 2008-09 during his employment with the Government Services Group, where he provided public contract services to a number of public entities.
He continued to serve as CFO of the City of Longwood from 2009-11, then accepted the role of Mayor from 2011-18.
His future at Winter Garden was determined during his time in Longwood when he visited City Hall for a meeting with the man he would eventually replace: Bollhoefer.
“I knew that if an opportunity ever presented itself, I would come over here and join the Winter Garden team,” Williams said. “At that time, the assistant mayor for public services was open, so I applied for it, and the new role started for me in 2018.”
The team environment and level of efficiency Williams saw during the first visit were contributing factors in his desire to participate, but a Winter Garden trait sealed the deal.
“Our family-friendly environment,” he said. “I want to make sure we keep it, it makes a huge difference to me.”
A NICK TO THE PAST
Williams enjoys being outdoors in his spare time – sailing, fishing, barbecuing and taking advantage of the weather in Florida helps him relax. He has also had respect for history since childhood and enjoys reading about important events in American history. It is this interest that helps him in his job.
The 118-year history of Winter Gardens is visible on every corner and in every building. Its charm and character depend on preserving and respecting this story. And it’s Williams’ responsibility – and pleasure – to do just that.
“When we have development opportunities ahead of us, we go to great lengths to look at the history of the city and how any new development will fit into that history,” he said. “It’s an important process, but it’s a process that is already there, so from my perspective it’s not very difficult.”
His new role involves overseeing many things that have been on his plate since he began his previous role. But when assessing the priorities for the next six months, one project seems to stand out.
“Right after I was first hired as assistant mayor, we had to choose the engineering design firm for the Dillard Street redesign,” he said. “And then, taking that project through the design and now getting ready to bid on it and get it built – it’s a project that I was closely involved in from the beginning.”
Dillard Street serves as the gateway to the center of the Winter Garden. A survey conducted in 2017 found that its average annual daily traffic was 23,730 vehicles, and it shows. The resulting road wear, together with outdated infrastructure and lack of pedestrian-friendly features, creates a stark contrast from the updated, well-maintained features of Plant Street.
Redesign plans include: a center median that can be used at a left turn; new landscape and a dedicated bike path; and the speed drops from 35 mph to 25 mph in some areas.
“What really makes it unique is that we’re going to have three roundabouts,” Williams said. “One at Plant Street, one at Smith Street and one at Story Road. And we’re doing an overhead-to-underground conversion for the electrical services. Everything except the new high-energy transmission lines and one crossing over to the Duke Energy transformer station. “
According to Williams, the project design is complete and the city is in the process of acquiring the necessary right of way.
“The more right we get, the closer it brings us to getting the building documents out on offer and choosing the contractor to carry out the work; we are aiming for bidding in the first quarter, ”he said.
Another major project on the city’s 2022 agenda, Tucker Ranch, remains in the design phase and may not reach the construction phase until the second quarter or later. The big problem for Dillard Street and Tucker Ranch is the same one that all construction projects have faced in the last 12 months.
“We are all in this unique environment where supply chain issues affect the timing of projects and delay start dates,” Williams said. “It would be our wish to start in the second quarter, but the availability of materials may be one of the reasons why it has not started before, for example, the third quarter.”
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Williams’ dedication to the task prevents him from looking too far into the future. For him, his new role is about remaining the course society has come to expect.
“The immediate goal is just to make the transition as smooth as possible,” he said. “We will evaluate some of our processes over time and see if there are any changes that may be necessary. We will certainly continue to build on the momentum that has made Winter Garden amazing; we will certainly continue to preserve the charm and the family-friendly environment. I have not really looked too far along the way yet, but we will definitely do what is best for the city. ”
Williams’ record stands for itself, and he wants to build on it – but not for himself. His motivation in his new role is the same as it was as CFO and as a state contractor and as a 19-year-old soldier in the wake of a Category 5 hurricane.
“Allow the passion to make a difference in people’s lives to serve as the motivation for public service,” he said.