Friday, October 27, 2017

TOP STORY >> Williams sets agenda in new post

Leader staff writer

State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R- Cabot) is leaving the Senate to accept a presidential appointment to the Southern States Energy Board as a full-time representative of the Trump administration to work on energy issues, including coal and restoring power in areas hit hard by recent storms.

When Williams is sworn in next month, he will step down as state senator from Dist. 29, with three years left on his term. His departure has piqued the interest of potential candidates.

By joining the Southern States Energy Board, an interstate compact composed of governors and legislators, Williams will continue working on energy policy, which has been a legislative priority since he was elected to the Senate in 2010. He co-sponsored legislation to regulate carbon dioxide emissions and electricity-generating plants powered by fossil fuels.

The governor will notify the Democratic and Republican parties of the vacancy, and they will decide when to hold a special election or have the governor appoint someone.

Dist. 29 includes Cabot, parts of northwest Lonoke County, Vilonia and parts of Faulkner County, parts of north Pulaski County adjacent the air base and parts of White County.

On Thursday, Cabot resident James Coy, a Republican, said he will run for Williams’ Senate seat instead of running against state Rep. Tim Lemons (R-Cabot). Coy recently announced he would challenge Lemons for the state House Dist. 43 seat.

“I’m still committed to the people in our district. Based on the recent vacancy in Eddie Joe’s appointment, I feel it is a great fit to represent the people in the district,” Coy said.

Former Lonoke County Justice of the Peace R.D. Hopper may also enter the race. Williams defeated him in the Republican primary last year. “I will be definitely considering running,” Hopper said.

Williams will be working with 16 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands using federal funding on energy infrastructure and energy polices.

The Southern States Energy Board, which is headquartered at Peachtree Corners, Ga., near Atlanta, meets quarterly in cities of member states. The board was established in 1960 to enhance economic development and the quality of life in the South through innovations in energy and environmental policies, programs and technologies.

The board has not requested an increase in state appropriations since 1987.

“At the Southern States Energy Board, I’ll have the opportunity to serve the people of 16 states, including Arkansas, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” Williams said.

“In fact, I can assume that one of my first responsibilities will be to help restore the energy grids on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, which were damaged so badly by Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” Williams said.

“This was six months in the works. I will be spending time in every state working on sound energy policies,” Williams said.

He said he will be dealing with coal issues, among other priorities.

“Renewable energy sources are good, but they need a solid base to provide energy to people 24/7,” Williams said.

“I spent 40 years in the railroad helping manage coal train operations for the eastern U.S.,” Williams explained.

“Energy policy affects the economy in many areas, but it’s not merely an abstract issue to be debated in a committee room. Energy prices affect people’s lives, especially low-income families for whom a flawed energy policy can create tremendous hardship,” Williams said.

“You have to fill your tank with gas, and you have to pay the light bill, so when energy prices go up, their quality of life goes down,” Williams said.

“I have mixed feelings about this new chapter in my life,” Williams said. “While I’m excited about making a difference in national energy policy, I’m truly going to miss the personal interactions with people I represent in the Senate. It has been a privilege, on a daily basis, to discuss issues with constituents and interact with them.”

“Serving in the Senate has been a blessing in many ways. I’ve been able to influence public policy, and at the same time I get to meet people on a daily basis, make new friends and stay caught up with old ones,” Williams said.

“The people have always made me feel so at home. When I go to the Capitol I feel like I’m representing family,” Williams said.

He is completing his seventh year in the Senate. As chairman of the Senate Com-mittee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs, he said his agenda included making government smaller and more efficient across the state.

He serves on the governor’s Transformation Team, whose duty is to reduce the size of state agencies. Williams was the lead sponsor of legislation that initiates cost savings in state agencies and plans for restructuring government departments to make them more efficient.

One of his legislative goals is to construct a memorial to Gold Star families on the lawn of the state Capitol. Gold Star families have a family member who has died while in military service. Williams is a veteran of the Army and the Air Force who lost a cousin in the Vietnam War, Sammy Ray Harrison of Star City.

Williams served as Cabot’s mayor from 2007 to 2010. He was elected to three terms on the Cabot City Council.

Williams worked for Union Pacific Railroad for almost 40 years, working his way from laborer to the regional director of transportation, managing daily operations for the eastern division covering Illinois to Louisiana. Born in Sheridan, he and his wife, DeLona, have four daughters and 11 grandchildren.

Coy, who hopes to win Williams’ Senate seat, said, “It is a better opportunity to support legislation on taxation, to lower taxes and reduce the size of government. The focus on a local level is paramount. Funding and supporting education is important.” Coy said.

He is a 23-year resident of Cabot and served on the Cabot School Board for eight years from 2001 to 2009.

He has a degree in business administration from Des Moines Area Community College.

Coy has over 30 years in leadership roles with experience in startups, Fortune 500 and small businesses.

He is a vice president of Infutor Data Solutions. He and his wife, Toni, have been married 34 years. They have three children, Andrew, Megan and Zach.