John J. Williams

I came to Cincinnati for the first time in the summer of 1987. I was a 23 year old law student chasing my then girl friend who had a summer job here. I had never thought much about Cincinnati except for the occasional WKRP episode. I remember my surprise when the plane landed, and it was announced that we arrived in KY. This was the first and only time I ever used a call button because I just knew I had gotten on the wrong plane. The flight attendant gave me a quick geography lesson which alleviated my concern. As my taxi from the Airport made the cut in the hill, I got my first full view of the City. I immediately perked up because I realized that we might actually make this picturesque place our home.

A year later I made my second trip to determine if I could make it in Cincy despite only knowing one person and having no real job prospects. I must admit I was fearful. But that fear quickly turned into a desire to call Cincinnati home. My desire was fueled by the kindness of some strangers who showed me how to navigate the City.

The kindness of those strangers led me to a job with the City Solicitor’s Office initially as a criminal prosecutor and then in the civil division. Following my years at the City, I worked as a solo lawyer in my own practice and then three years ago, I went to work for First Group, a transportation company with its US headquarters here in Cincinnati.

For the twelve years I worked at City Hall, I worked closely with many of the departments and developed an appreciation for how things should be accomplished and how things should not be accomplished. I recall some heated disagreements on Council but from my seat it always appeared to be carried out with civility and an overarching desire to do what was best for the City. My experience with the City gave me a solid foundation and an understanding of economic development and its impact on the community. I saw the struggles of small businesses and the lack of opportunity and money, varying neighborhood concerns including affordable, habitable housing and issues related to crime. I also witnessed firsthand the issues that contributed to the African American community distrusting the police. Following Cincinnati’s racial unrest in 2001, I was the only local person who was on the monitoring team that helped establish the Collaborative Agreement that instituted some changes in policing and community relations. Through my work with the Collaborative Agreement, I know there is more work to be done but that the current BLM movement and the police can respect each other and co-exist if city leaders make it a priority.

I plan to contribute to Council a sense of civility that encourages cooperation and transparency. The City has given me, my wife and two adult kids a great life filled with good people with good intentions, even if we don’t always share the same political views.

I feel it is time for me to give back by contributing my perspective based on my life experiences through my work at the City, working for individuals and local companies in my own law practice and serving on various community and charitable boards including ProKids, ProSeniors and Camp Joy. I have also served as President of the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Bar Association. My experience as a lawyer and my past community involvement has allowed me to get to know a lot of diverse people in various walks of life, from CEOs to people struggling to provide for their families. Those relationships and experiences have made me appreciate and understand that there is usually enough to go around and that I can find a place at the table for those who don’t feel like they have a voice.

It has been 35 years since I first encountered that cut in the hill and that view of the City still moves me especially since I can proudly call it my home. I know the best is yet to come for our hometown and I want to contribute to that bright future.