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Williams steps down after 18 years as supervisor

Kenneth W. Williams (right) of Pinetop District is retiring from the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors at the end of 2009 after 18 years of service. Above, county administrator Charles Culley presents Williams with a plaque at his last board meeting on December 15. Williams will be replaced by Carlton Revere of Hartfield. (Photo by Larry Chowning)
by Larry S. Chowning

When Kenneth W. Williams opted out of the 2009 election for Pinetop District supervisor, he ended a long family tradition of public service on the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors.

Since Kenneth’s wife, Margaret “Sissy” Butler Williams, 64, was a child, she has never faced a county election where a member of her family was not running for public office in Middlesex.

Mrs. Williams’ grandfather, father, and husband have all represented Pinetop District on the board of supervisors. Her sister, Leona Brownley, was elected several times as Middlesex Circuit Court Clerk. 

Mrs. Williams’ grandfather, Calvin Butler Sr., was first elected to the board starting in 1935 and served two terms before retiring in 1943. He “unretired” and won a third term in 1955, but died in office in 1958.

After his death, his son Calvin Jr. was appointed to the board in 1958 and was elected to six terms as a Pinetop District supervisor. He had just started his sixth term when he died unexpectedly in 1980.

Calvin Jr.’s son-in-law, Kenneth W. Williams, was first elected to the board in 1991. “I enjoyed the years I was on the board. It was a great honor and I thank the people of Pinetop District for giving me an opportunity to serve them,” he said recently at his home in Wake.

“I learned that the decisions you make are going to make somebody happy and somebody mad,” said Williams. “You do the best you can do, and roll with the punches. Believe me, we have had some right heavy stuff to deal with since I’ve been on the board.”

When he first came on the board one of the main issues was state and federal requirements to close the county’s landfill at Stormont. “We did that the second year I was on the board. We closed it exactly to state specifications and after 10 years of monitoring it, we were supposed to be done with it.

“Here it is 18 years later and we are still dealing with it because the state (DEQ) has changed the rules and stiffened pollution requirements,” he said. “It’s been a very expensive ordeal.”

During landfill monitoring, there have been minor violations over the years that have kept the county from being able to stop the expensive monitoring of the site. There also have been regulation changes that have forced continued monitoring and drilling of new test wells for monitoring the landfill.

During Williams’ tenure on the board, two new schools were built and the main building at Middlesex High School was refurbished. “The main complaint that I heard when I first went on the board was that our school buildings were old and outdated,” he said. “We built St. Clare Walker Middle School, Middlesex Elementary School and refurbished Middlesex High School.”

Williams feels that the new county courthouse was more than the county could afford and this has caused financial problems for Middlesex.  “After building the schools, we weren’t financially ready to build a courthouse, but the judge lowered the gavel and said we had to do it.”

Williams was chairman of the board of supervisors then, and due to architectural problems it took several extra years before the building was usable. “We were criticized for how long it took to move into the new courthouse, but it was not the county’s fault. The judges were very kind about the fact it took several more years to move in than anticipated. They understood it was not the board’s fault.

“I was chairman of the board at that time and I had to go meet with the three judges,” he said. “I had people telling me then, ‘You tell those judges what we are going to do and what we can’t do.’

“I told them, ‘Now look, I’ve got sense enough to know that I can’t tell the judges anything. If you want to come along with me, you can tell them anything you want.’

“I served on the board with Fred Crittenden, Jerry Bray, Lee Weber, Jack Miller, Frank and Wayne Jessie and Bob Crump,” he said. “I think I got along with everyone and I enjoyed working with them all.”

Looking to the future, Williams is concerned about what it will cost to keep the county operating. “We are going to have to substantially raise taxes or cut services,” he said. “We’ve got to find other ways to generate income. It can’t all come from real estate. It’s a shame the county doesn’t have other means of generating income.

“A lot of people can afford to pay more real estate taxes,” he said. “We have good collection, but yet I know it creates a real strain on a lot of people for them to pay their taxes. We also have a lot of elderly people and, I think if we are not careful, we will eventually tax some people off their land.”

Williams is also concerned how long there will be enough volunteers to man the fire and rescue squads. “If we have to go to hiring fire and rescue squads, it’s going to require us to raise taxes like never before. The legislature has just got to give counties more ways to raise revenues, other than real estate and personal property taxes.

“My advice to the new board members is that you can have differences of opinions, but don’t let it get personal,” he said. “Leave it at the table and always do what you think is right.”

Since he’s been on the board, Williams sees the Middlesex YMCA, Deltaville Maritime Museum and dredging of Broad Creek as major accomplishments for the county.

His voting to allow Food Lion in the county also was an important and controversial decision, he said. The approval of locating the regional jail in Saluda turned out to be a controversial decision that he feels was a good decision.

While he was a supervisor, Williams was appointed by Governor Jim Gilmore to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). Williams was a commercial fisherman and president of the Virginia Watermen’s Association for many years.  He was the watermen’s representative on VMRC.

County administrator Charles Culley described Williams as a strong, conservative leader. “He was very helpful to the county when it came to the state legislature,” he said. “He went to the Capitol and lobbied to help us and other rural counties.

“It was surprising when we would all be somewhere far away and people everywhere seemed to know Kenneth Wayne,” said Culley.

At his final board meeting on December 15, Williams was presented with a plaque thanking him for his long service to the county.

With less obligations now, Williams and his wife plan to take a trip to Montana. “I don’t know why, but I’ve always wanted to go to Montana,” he said. 

posted 12.23.2009

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