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front&center Eddie Joe Williams

Cabot mayor making strides in fast-growing city

By Elizabeth Sharp

This article was published April 27, 2008 at 4:08 a.m.

— Ask Eddie Joe Williams what makes Cabot special, and he'll give you a dozen examples of the community's can-do attitude.

Take the recent tornado, for instance. Within two hours, officials knew there were no injuries; within six hours; the streets were cleared. By the next day, hundreds of volunteers were helping clean up.

Two weeks later, Williams said that a visiting politician's wife, who was unaware that a tornado had hit, told him how beautiful Cabot was.

"That's what makes Cabot special," Williams said. "It's all about making it the safest, cleanest, most livable city in Arkansas."

Since becoming mayor in January 2007, that's been 53-year-old Williams' number one goal. And with a strong background in leadership and an ability to foster a sense of community, Williams is making that dream a reality for Cabot.

Williams was born and raised in Sheridan, where he lived with his parents and older brother and sister. He said that the best part of growing up in Sheridan was being part of a small-town atmosphere.

"Everybody knew everybody; it was a community," he said. "It was a huge family."

Some of his fondest memories - and most impressionable experiences - from that time involve his parents. His mother, who stayed at home to take care of the children and run the house, taught him the value of family and the importance of unconditional love.

"She taught me the lesson that when kids are almostimpossible to raise, moms will be there for you," he said.

His father was - and continues to be, even three years after his death from Alzheimer's - a strong influence in Williams' life. Throughout the course of his childhood, Williams said he never remembered his father being ready to go to church with the rest of the family on Sunday mornings. Instead, he'd be out in the back working on something right up until Williams' mother called him in to clean up, change and finally head across the street for church.

And while Williams laughs at the memory today, he said it's a strong example of his father's attitude toward work and success. He had two jobs - working for the International Paper Company and managing rental property - and went in early and worked until everything was done, even if it meant staying late.

Williams added that his father had the ability to see what a completed project would look like before it was even started.

"My dad could walk up to the Empire State Building and say, 'I think we can build this,'" Williams said.

That attitude is one that Williams has tried to emulate since his youth and has driven him throughout his life. It took him through his service with the military, and it took him from washing windows on a locomotive 30 years ago to being in upper management with Union Pacific Railroad today. It even enabled him to marry his wife, DeLona, and build a family with their four daughters.

One of his daughters, Bethany Williams, 28, is still a resident of Cabot today. So when she heard that her father was thinking of running for mayor, she said she was excited about what he could do for the city.

"It's something that he's always been interested in," she said. "He's very hardworking and very honest, and I think he thought he could do a good job."

Since her father became mayor in January 2007, Bethany Williams said she's seen those traits in everything he accomplishes.

"I know that he loves Cabot, and he wants to do all that he can to make it a comfortable place to raise a family," she said.

And for Williams, the first step in making Cabot as familyfriendly and healthy of a town as possible is building a team.

"When you're the second- or third-fastest growing city in Arkansas, it's absolutely imperative to build a team," he said.

He's used the team he's built in the past year and a half to take care of a lot of long-standing issues, both in the community and in City Hall. One of the biggest challenges he's faced since entering office was paying about $500,000 in unpaid bills and also saving another $500,000 for future use in city projects. He's greatly reduced traffic congestion by putting in more turning lanes and lights.; later this year, a new $7 million railroad overpass will open. Recently, the city of Cabot gave $840,000 to help start building a National Guard facility north of town. One of his proudest achievements has been www.cabotar.gov, a state-of-the-art Web site where members of the community can do everything from apply for business licenses to request that police patrol the area in front of their homes while they're out of town.

Williams said these strides have required paying a lot of attention to little things, likewatching over time, and making tough decisions, like reducing staff. But he said they were important moves for the city's future, and they're strides that he couldn't have made without the help of a dedicated staff.

"That took a lot of effort on a lot of people's part," he said.

When he's not busy being mayor, Williams enjoys teaching Sunday School at his church and spending time with his family, particularly his five grandsons. Bethany Williams said that regardless of where he is - whether it's in his office or with his family - he has a strong character and an undeniable passion for Cabot and its people.

"He treats everybody the way he wants to be treated; right up to the poorest person in Cabot, he would treat everybody the same," she said. "To him, every person in Cabot matters."

Three Rivers, Pages 116, 117 on 04/27/2008

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