Michelle Williams, who served four terms on the Covington Board of Commissioners, poses with a resolution honoring her service.
COVINGTON, Ky. – The Covington Board of Commissioners said “farewell" to its longest-serving member, Michelle Williams, on Tuesday night with a formal resolution and a gift of an engraved wooden keepsake box.
Mostly, however, they told stories.
Stories that spoke to their gratitude for Williams’ service and for her advocacy on behalf of Covington’s residents – especially those who are vulnerable or who have been historically disenfranchised:
Mayor Joe Meyer told how Williams – after seeing kids poke sticks in the ground at Randolph Park to serve as soccer goals – had fought for funding for the real equipment. He also said Williams’ insistence that he participate in White Cane Safety Day had given him appreciation for how difficult it was for those with vision challenges to navigate Covington’s sidewalks.
“It was a simple thing … but something Commissioner Williams does so well,” Meyer said.
Commissioner Tim Downing said he was grateful for Williams’ guidance, help, and example when he was first elected. He said he thought he had been preparing adequately for the meetings by reading background material – but then listened as Williams would call attention to inconsistencies in numbers or descriptions on particular lines and pages.
“I realized that I was going to have to up my game,” Downing told her. “You are one of the most highly detailed people I’ve met.”
And Commissioner Ron Washington saluted Williams’ tenacity and voice. He also said that – as the third African-American person on the Board of Commissioners – Williams set an example and paved the way for him and others to follow. “It has to be said,” Washington said. “That carries weight.”
“I’m so thankful for you,” Washington said, adding that as Williams leaves the Commission, “it will be an honor to serve you.”
Williams, who was first elected in 2012 and re-elected three times between 2016 and 2020, chose not to run for office this past election.
During her eight years on the Commission, the honorary resolution said, she left a mark as an effective and vocal advocate for Covington’s residents.
“Commissioner Williams took her role as an elected official seriously, taking the time to prepare by reading agendas, minutes, reports, and memos so that she could engage in pointed questioning of City staff, seeking answers and explanations until it was readily clear to the public what she and her colleagues were being asked to vote upon,” the resolution reads.
It specifically mentioned Williams’ efforts to make recreational opportunities accessible to all residents in all neighborhoods … to keep streets and neighborhoods clean … to expand food opportunities by creating a process for allowing mobile vendors or food trucks … on the U.S. Census … and in the area of human rights.
Related to equal rights, it said, Williams lobbied her colleagues to join her in adopting such protections as The Crown Act, setting Covington up as a leader for being the first city in Kentucky to do so; participating in such events as White Cane Safety Day; and ensuring City support for the long-held Old Timers Reunion in the Eastside neighborhood.
As for Williams herself, the Commissioner had told her colleagues not to honor her publicly (they obviously ignored her) and did not prepare any remarks.
But when prompted after the meeting, she said she appreciated the words and – above all – the opportunity to serve the public.
“I wanted to be there for them and to help them,” she said about Covington’s residents. “I will always be here when they need me. Half the city has my phone number, and if they don’t have it, the person next to them has it.”
With Williams’ “retirement,” a seat opened up on the Board of Commissioners during the November election. It will be filled by newcomer Nolan Nicaise. Commissioners Ron Washington, Tim Downing, and Shannon Smith were re-elected. The fifth member of the Commission is Mayor Joe Meyer.
The Commission next meets at 6 p.m. Jan. 3 at City Hall, 20 West Pike St.
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