Column: What does Mayor Williams’ Congressional run mean for the city

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams announced Wednesday he will be running for the third Congressional seat in West Virginia. The seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins, who announced this past May he would be challenging Democratic Senator Joe Manchin for his seat.

This could be quite a shake up for Huntington and the entire 3rd District of West Virginia if Williams is to win. First, it would be a swing in politic values as Williams, who will be running as a Democrat, has stated that he doesn’t believe in the “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” mentality. Williams told The Charleston Gazette-Mail that politicians do not bring jobs to the state, but businesses do.

The next piece that could affect Huntington and will be the basis for Williams’ run is what he has done for Huntington in his time as mayor, and how he has helped revitalize the area during the rise of America’s opioid epidemic. In the time Williams has been mayor, he has made it his main goal to put Huntington in a positive light and to stop the rapid growth of opiates in the city.

Williams has debated with members in Washington to provide more funding to West Virginia and Huntington specifically so that they may provide more treatment options for addicts. The mayor has also worked with Marshall University and Marshall President Jerome Gilbert to fight the crisis and, as a result, the city has seen a drop in overdoses for the first time since 2015. Williams accomplished all of this on top of achieving one of his main goals of having Huntington named “America’s Best Community,” a title that came with a $3 million grant to be used for urban development in the city.

Now what will come for Williams in his bid is the issue he had this past winter, with the budget deficit that resulted in the loss of 24 city employees from both the police and fire departments. The mayor did turn down a $10,000 raise approved by the Huntington City Council, but many still believe he could have done much more to stop the job losses.

But what really matters for Huntington is not if Williams stays or leaves, but who will replace him and if that individual will be able to continue Williams’ mission of positive growth for Huntington. The city is on the right path and has seen a growth of local business, along with becoming a more palatable town for young graduates to move to. But whether its Williams or someone new, that trend has to keep moving.

Huntington could become the premiere city in West Virginia as a result of the achievements started by Williams. And the mayor believes he can do that for the rest of southern West Virginia. That battle will be much harder to fight, but as for Huntington, Williams has placed the city in the right direction. It just needs to keep moving that way.

Tom Jenkins can be contacted at [email protected].