Youngstown State University.
Youngstown State University.
As the administrator of the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), Williams is charged with leading the federal economic development agenda by promoting innovation and competitiveness, and preparing American regions for growth and success in the global economy. Previously, he served as the executive director of the federal Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, and also as the mayor of Youngstown, Ohio. His election in 2005 gained local and regional media attention because it brought Youngstown its first African-American mayor as well as its first independent mayor since 1922.
He resigned in August 2011 to take a position as the Obama administration's "Auto Czar". The Coalition is chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The late Thomas Menino (1943-2014), Mayor of Boston, was a co-chair.
Williams was born and raised on Youngstown's east side. After earning a degree in finance at Youngstown State University, he reportedly turned down job offers from around the country and remained in Youngstown, where he worked with area banks. Williams also served as an examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
He eventually left the banking industry to assume directorship of Youngstown's Community Development Agency. There, Williams was instrumental in implementing Youngstown 2010, a citywide redevelopment plan aimed at re-shaping the city and helping to overturn its negative image. Williams, who publicly stated on several occasions that he was a "lifelong Democrat", did not run in the April Democratic primary for mayor.
On May 3, 2005, he announced his intention to run for mayor as an independent. Immediately after declaring his mayoral candidacy, Williams became a major contender for the office, along with Democratic nominee Bob Hagan. Nevertheless, Williams ran a popular campaign, and as the election neared, he seemed poised to pull ahead of rival Hagan.
On Election Day, November 8, 2005, Williams swept the field of six candidates to seize victory in Youngstown's mayoral race. While the reasons for the outcome remain unclear, some observers have attributed Williams' successful run to widespread dissatisfaction with the city's traditional leadership. Once elected Mayor, Jay pushed to create a Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) with surrounding townships.
The townships surrounding Youngstown have resisted economic collaboration.
Williams had no direct political experience. Despite earlier evidence of a close race, the result shocked observers who had viewed Williams' relative youth and political inexperience as insurmountable hurdles to winning the election.
He is a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, a bi-partisan group with a stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets".