HAMILTON: Jeff Williams Multi-Party Experience Brings Value to the City in Business, Politics and Philanthropy, Giving GOP Western Region Fundraising

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By: Ken Hamilton

During Niagara Falls’s Youth Director Sanquin Starks’ Unity Day Celebration in downtown’s Legend’s Park I ran into real estate magnate Jeff Williams.  He was there to receive an award from Starks for his support of the event.  The festival is intended to unite the various factors of the city in a single event and is always well-attended. Williams’ involvement in the festival is a natural fit, not only due to his involvement with the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, a part of which supports the city’s Underground Railroad Interpretive Center, but for many of the other activities that he has supported over the years in the African-American community as well as others.  Williams recently accepted an opportunity from the former Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy.  Langworthy was recently elected as the chair of the NYS Republican Party. 

The press release that Langworthy disseminated cited Williams as saying, “When Chairman Langworthy asked me to serve in this position, I jumped at the chance because I know it is the start of a new era for the New York Republican Party. We have seen the disastrous effects of one-party Democrat rule on taxpayers of the state …”

Williams’ pointed out “one party Democrat rule” in his citation, but I have known ‘Jeff” for more than 20-years, both us separately and sequentially throwing our hats into the ring for state senate, and I know that he, like myself, would also not-be- so-excited about the ‘one party rule’ of either or any party; as such would devolve into an autocratically one man rule, be it socialist or fascist. 

Williams accepted my offer for an interview:

HAMILTON: You seem pretty exuberant about taking on this job and I have confidence that you can do it well. What is it that you hope to accomplish?

WILLIAMS: I have believed for years that we (Republicans) have missed the mark as a party in finding resources for our races from a grassroots level. I think that we can build a network of two-to-3,000 people giving at a rate of about $20 a month in raising an enormous amount of money in order to help candidates across the state.  And it does 2 things; anyone who gives a dollar for your campaign is someone who is voting for you. So, we are not only building finances, we’re building voters. As we work to build this grassroots network across the state we are going to be strengthening the party at the same time.  It is really an evolution, not truly a revolution. As the party evolves and we continue to rebuild it, retool it, and revitalize it we will start winning elections at local levels, county levels and eventually state level races.

It is a very important thing to have competition in any state, no matter how ‘blue’ the state is.  We hope that there’s a lot of Republicans in upstate NY, there’s a lot of Republicans in [NYC], there’s a lot of Republicans in Long Island, that it shows them that we are an alternative to what they are voting for at this point. 

HAMILTON: How did we become a one-party state in three houses?

WILLIAMS: I believe that it was someone who was asleep at the switch.  We had a state party that wasn’t raising money, that was doing it [running the GOP] for themselves and not for the party.  And that’s where we are trying to make a shift. We are trying to build a grassroots level so that this is everybody’s party, not just one person’s or a few people.

When Nick and I discussed this in the beginning, Ken, he liked my philanthropic-side as much as he liked my political-side. We’ve [Langworthy] known each other for almost as long as I have known you, but he is a lot younger; and I believe that it is things like Unity Day here, like we are having today, which I supported since the very first year when [Starks] walked into my office and asked me to help. I supported it because he does great things. 

It’s not about maybe the whole place is Democrats and I might be the only Republican in the room. It doesn’t really matter. It’s about building a base and building grassroots.  And that’s what we want to do with the party; we want to unify and bring it together so that it is a party for everyone, and not a party for the few. 

HAMILTON: Are there any other African-American-centric events that you support?

WILLIAMS: Ken, if had I looked down the list I would have to go and look. I’m sure there are. I don’t know at this point because I give to things that so well. I don’t give care if they are African American-centric or any (thing else). Today I ‘m doing 2 things: I’ve sponsored the jazz festival in Lewiston and I’ve sponsored Unity Day in Niagara Falls. 

You know; for my entire day I am going to events that I have sponsored, and whether it’s jazz festival in Lewiston – which is an amazing event, or Unity Day in Niagara Falls – which is just as amazing event, just a different event, I support excellence. It’s not about party, it’s not about race, it’s about excellence. 

HAMILTON: You have never been nailed to the Republican Party; I have always seen you working with people from other parties and from other ethnicities, etc..

WILLIAMS: I have always worked with all parties and I still continue to this day to have friends on all sides. Some of my best friends are Democrats, some of my best friends are Republicans; but we don’t talk about those things, we talk about how to make things, and this place, better. It is important to make your community a better place, to make your state a better place. It’s about service, and that’s why I am doing this.

HAMILTON: In no particular order, what would you say are the 3 best things that can happen in Niagara Falls?

WILLIAMS: People recognizing the value of the city, people becoming more optimistic about the city they live in – and that’s what this event does, it creates a sense of optimism that there’s some hope; and then once we have those 2 things in place, rebuilding this city.

HAMILTON: Thank you, Jeff.


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