I’ve known Thad for almost 30 years. We met when he was an undergraduate at Brown, and I was studying for my masters degree in writing. We bonded over our shared love of music, playing together in the Brown University Orchestra - he on the trombone, myself on cello. I immediately recognized a kindred spirit as we discussed social justice, educational equity, and the potential of our society to provide a sustainable, humane quality of life for everyone. Over the years I’ve become increasingly impressed with his and Adria’s deep, lasting dedication to these issues and, in particular, how they manifest in our city.
As a teacher in a high-poverty Richmond elementary school, I’m really looking forward to Thad’s leadership in moving our schools toward more equitable outcomes for all of our city’s children. I work with students from the 5th District, and I know he will work hard for them and their families. He is a great community member, the father of an RPS middle school student, and someone I am incredibly proud to call my friend.
RPS Teacher and 5th District Resident
I have known Thad since I was a student at the University of Richmond. For several years, I have believed that Thad could serve well on City Council. So, I was excited when Thad mentioned that he was considering becoming a candidate.
Over the four years that I have worked in Richmond Public Schools, I have witnessed the challenges that Richmond kids face. Those challenges involve not only what happens in school, but often what is happening at home and in the neighborhood. Thad understands the policy and practice of solving problems in each of these environments. He has the experience to ensure that we are moving the City of Richmond and the 5th District in the right direction.
Social Justice Activist and 5th District Resident
My name is Clarence McGill and I have been a 5th District resident for over 30-years. I am a member of the famous Syracuse 8, a group of college football players that stood up for equal justice at Syracuse University in 1970. The actions we took resonated in Syracuse NY and throughout the nation for decades, to the present day. My social justice action is documented in a book called, Leveling the Playing Field; the Story of the Syracuse 8.
I sacrificed my college athletic career to advance the cause of racial justice and equal access to a quality education along with fairness in collegiate athletics. I believe it’s time to elect Thad Williamson to our City Council, because his leadership style and values are consistent with the sacrifice I made so many years ago.
I know Richmond. My wife and children were born and raised here. I have, and currently, live in the 5th District for over 30-years. Therefore, I have personally known every 5th District City Council representative during that said time period. I believe that Thad will be the most effective representative our district has ever had. He has committed his adult life to economic, racial, and social justice, and he has produced results.
I am still working to help our City by helping those who have been incarcerated find employment and to begin their productive, positive and progressive post-release. I see every day how the Office of Community Wealth Building, which Thad directed from 2014 to 2016, is helping expand opportunities for those residents. We need leaders like Thad who understand the deep challenges so many of our fellow citizens face, understand the policies needed to meet those challenges, and has the courage and effectiveness to bring about real change.
When I recently introduced Thad at a Randolph community meeting held at Fifth Baptist Church, I spoke about the Five Exemplary Practices of Leadership. Thad exhibits each one of these.
1. Model the Way
Thad practices what he preaches. He has served the Randolph community as a coach, he has mentored youth, and he has helped support neighbors in need. He has brought the fifth grade classes at John B. Cary Elementary School to tour the University of Richmond the last two years. He always looks out for opportunities to help people.
2. Inspire a Shared Vision
Thad took the lead role in shaping the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission into a concrete action plan, based on an inspiring vision: a vision of Richmond in which we succeed in cutting child poverty in half over the next decade. That vision has won the support of successive mayors and City Councils, and led to critical action steps, from expanding the City’s workforce efforts to starting a new books program in our Pre-Kindergarten classes. Thousands of Richmond residents have been impacted by these efforts.
3. Challenge the Process
Thad doesn’t just identify problems, he identifies solutions. The City didn’t have an agency solely focused on fighting poverty, but now it has the Office of Community Wealth Building thanks to Thad’s efforts. Communication between the Mayor, School Board, and Council used to be minimal, but now we have the Education Compact, which currently structures communication between all managerial and policy-making bodies.
4. Enable Others to Act
Thad empowers the people he works with to use their own gifts. He has built teams taking on complex challenges both inside and outside of City Hall, and he inspires loyalty and commitment.
5. Encourage the Heart
Finally, Thad tries to bring out the best in people. That’s why he was recently asked to be the graduation speaker at John B. Cary Elementary School, where he encouraged the 5th grade students to do the right thing, the hard thing, and the kind thing.
In closing, Thad earned his PhD at Harvard University, many years ago, which prepared him to exhibit outstanding leadership skills and dedication to community service. Thad has made difficult choices during his life and his journey by helping to shift cultural attitudes, not just for my fellow 5th District residents or for our many current Richmond City residents, but also for future generations. A long time ago, Thad choose the hard-right over the easy-wrong: bringing community together to welcome and accept constructive change.
Rev. Ben Campbell
Pastor Emeritus of Richmond Hill; Author
Thad Williamson has done some of the most important work in the city over the last decade. With Councilwoman Ellen Robertson and others, he provided leadership for the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission. He helped design and launch the Future Centers in Richmond high schools and the city’s Office of Community Wealth Building.
An RPS parent himself, Thad worked tirelessly to help establish the Education Compact between Mayor, School Board, and community groups, in order to support funding and coordinate public, non-profit, and private resources to help RPS.
Thad has worked energetically and collegially to make the city better for all. I know he will do that on Council. That is why I support him.
Retired RPS Teacher; 36-year Veteran Teacher
During my years in the Cary Community and as one of his child’s teachers. Mr. Williamson has always been a welcoming, down-to-earth and most of all respectful person. He and his family have always supported not only our students but our staff and community as well. Thad has the uncanny ability to lead, unite and move forward. His honesty, dedication and willingness to serve have always been unwavering.
Having Thad as the Fifth District Council representative would be a move in a positive direction for continued success in our neighborhood, as well as all of RVA!
Local Consultant and 5th District Resident
My name is Courtney Layman and I live and work in the 5th, eat at restaurants and meet friends for drinks in the 5th, I ride bikes with my kids and play in the river in the 5th.
At my house we regularly have big family conversations around the kitchen table. As a result of these chats, we have discussed how not everyone has enough food to eat, or a nice stable place to live, or access to reliable transportation, or a job that pays enough money to afford those things. We’ve spent countless nights getting angry and emotional discussing systemic racism and the bullying of our fellow LGBTQIA folks both on the playground and in the headlines. We’ve shared a smile as our youngest proudly proclaimed that she found a boy she could be friends with at school because, “he agreed boys and girls should be equal.”
This leads me to why this queer mom is supporting the white guy for City Council (because let’s be honest, I don’t usually support the straight white man for much). When I think about who I want to represent me, I think about what are they teaching their kids? What conversations are they having at home and with their friends? How are they answering the tough questions? Then I think about what they are going to do about it.
Enter Thad. Thad Williamson takes all of my conversations, hopes, and concerns and puts action to them.
I like the way he answers the tough questions, his honesty to admit when he doesn’t know something...yet…
I trust Thad to listen to his constituents, all of us, and use his tremendous brainpower (he’s really smart!) and his loads of experience to make informed decisions on our behalf.
I believe Thad has more knowledge of how the “system” works than anyone and I trust him to continue to use that knowledge to ensure the system works better.
I respect how principled and thoughtful Thad is in everything he does. It’s just a part of who he is.
I’ve had conversations with people who are concerned Thad’s experience in and around local government is an issue – which, as I type the words feels…ridiculous. Yes, Thad knows how it works and knows how to get things done – thank goodness! Don’t be misguided that his “experience” means he won’t stand up for what is right and what is best.
I’m going to listen to my head and my gut, which tell me there is nobody else who would do a better job on City Council than Thad Williamson because deep in his bones Thad believes our district and our city can and should be better and is ready and equipped to do the hard work to make it happen.