Longtime city worker Percy Williamson retiring, running for Volusia County Council
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Percy Williamson is leaving his longtime Daytona Beach job and has his sights on a Volusia County Council seat.
Williamson is retiring after 15 years as Daytona Beach’s Leisure Services Director.
He has announced that he will seek the Volusia County Council at-large seat in the 2018 election – the position currently held by Joyce Cusack. Because of term limits, she can’t run again.
“I’ve been thinking this for a while. I looked at what was accomplished during my time here, and I looked to see if the department was better off than it was when I got here,” Williamson told the Daytona Times.
Gratifying city job
Williamson said his time with Leisure Services, a department he has worked in since 2003, has been gratifying.
“It gave me an opportunity to come to my hometown and use all of my assets. I was able to upgrade the entire department and infrastructure to bring it up to a standard that was even-handed on both sides of the river,” Williamson commented.
Before working for the City of Daytona Beach, Williamson spent 25 years in the banking industry, having worked for Wells Fargo and Bank of America. He retired from his banking job as an executive.
“I left banking and came here at the urging of then City Commissioners Yvonne-Scarlett Golden and Charles Cherry Sr. They asked me to consider applying for the position. They convinced me to come back and work in my community in my hometown. I was sought out for my business background,” he recalled.
Williamson said he received criticism during his tenure at the city over fees and programs.
He explained, “I made the inequities and lack of facilities my top priority. Before the Cypress Aquatic Center was built, nothing new had been constructed on the Westside for 40 years. I had a focused effort to bring the standard up in the core community. If you ride around town now, you see our new recreation facilities.
“We got corporate sponsors to help cover the cost for the Cypress pool for kids who can’t afford it. We have a free learn-to-swim program. The fees for facilities are determined by city commission ordinances. We went back and redid the fees after finding they were too high.”
Number of achievements
Williamson once oversaw as many as 160 employees (now 58), 10 recreation centers and 28 parks. He also for a time oversaw the five revenue enterprises that operate like small businesses. They are the Halifax Harbor Marina, Municipal Golf Club, Florida Tennis Center, Municipal Stadium and Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
“We’ve restructured some things and outsourced others. I have no regrets. I think I surround myself with people who get the job done. I think I changed the social culture of Leisure Services and got some good things in,” added Williamson.
Some of the major projects Williamson worked on include:
•Midtown Cultural & Educational Center ($6.8 million in construction)
•Yvonne Scarlett Golden Cultural & Educational Center ($2.9 million in construction)
•Bethune Point Skate Park ($800,000 in construction)
•Cypress Aquatic Center ($1.6 million in construction)
•Synthetic turf project at Municipal Stadium ($1.2 million)
Ready for office
The next step for Williamson is a crack at politics.
“I’ve been a student of the political process for some time. This has been well-planned. I would have run years ago but there was work to be done at Leisure Services. The timing had to be right. I had to be in the right spot. If I do something, I have to do it 100 percent,’’ he related.
His official campaign launch will take place on Nov. 9 at the Halifax Historical Society Museum on Beach Street at 6 p.m.
Williamson believes his previous careers have prepared him for office.
“I figured with my skillset in the private sector as a bank executive and running Leisure Services with the city that I am ready. I have been working with municipalities in both careers,” he explained.
“I did a lot of work with cities on projects from Pensacola to Key West. I’ve got projects in Miami, Tallahassee, etc. I got to see both sides of the table. I am ready on Day 1 when I get to the county.’’
His opponents so far are former Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson and Dr. L. Ronald Durham, Daytona Beach’s community relations manager.
“I believe in my capabilities, my skills and my ability to get things done,” said Williamson.
Williamson doesn’t believe he and Durham will split votes as Black candidates.
“I think one of the biggest power centers in this town is Bethune-Cookman, of which I am a graduate. This is my hometown. I think it will spread to the rest of the county,” he noted.
Williamson, born and raised in Daytona Beach, is a 1974 graduate of Seabreeze High School. He also graduated from the former Bethune-Cookman College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Public Relations.
“When people take a hard look at my business background and my community involvement, I think they’ll look at me. I am from the community. I have the administrative skills in both the private and public sector. I am not the status quo candidate. I think I am the candidate for positive change. We need new and innovative ideas.”
‘Diversify our economy’
Williamson believes that the county needs economic development and an excellent school system.
He stated, “I left Daytona after college because I didn’t think that there were any opportunities for me here. Our best and brightest leave looking for opportunities,” he shared.
“We need to diversify our economy. Tourism is good, but we need more. We need good-paying jobs to keep our best and brightest and attract others. We need to keep the best DSC (Daytona State), ERAU (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University) and B-CU (Bethune-Cookman University) graduates.
“We need to work closely with our school system. If schools aren’t up to par, businesses and people won’t move in. We need to work with our school system and raise teachers’ pay. Our teachers’ pay is the lowest in the state,’’ he added.
On Black communities
Williamson also addressed economics and blight in Black communities like Midtown in Daytona, Spring Hill in DeLand and the New Smyrna’s Westside.
“All of these communities lack economic development. Throughout our county, we have pockets of locations and areas that have been left behind. We need to attract businesses to these areas just as we do with the (Daytona International) Speedway,” he added.