Durham Mayor Leonardo Williams gives inaugural State of City address

Durham Mayor Leonardo Williams gives his State of the City address.
Durham Mayor Leonardo Williams gives his State of the City address.

Durham Mayor Leonardo Williams outlined his vision for investing back in Durham at his inaugural State of the City address Tuesday at the Carolina Theater.

Williams’ speech emphasized the importance of education in Durham, drawing from his previous experience as an educator. 

As part of his push to support youth “from cradle to career,” he announced the launch of the Mentoring Alliance Partnership with the Youth Office and Youth Mentoring Collaborative. This partnership aims to offer educational opportunities for students to start on their career paths. 

“Our youth are imperative to the sustained growth and success of the city, and we must provide them with the tools to be successful,” Williams said. 

Williams said some of his most fulfilling moments as an educator were providing support for young Black boys, many of whom he “lost to the school-to-prison pipeline.”

To continue this work in Durham, he announced the creation of the Task Force on Black Men, which will support Black community members through recommendations to businesses, higher education institutions and the government. 

Williams touched on the rapid growth of the Triangle, with a focus on housing. He emphasized “affordable living” over “affordable housing,” as part of his push to reinvest in Durham. 

For Williams, “housing should be a human right” and should be provided for those who are disabled and unhoused. 

He also acknowledged the history and culture of Durham neighborhoods and focused on protecting minorities in the face of development, adding that Durham has a “community full of promise and possibility.” 

Williams described Durham as a “midsize major-status city” that is still largely locally owned, and spoke about how the city can fund itself through tourism and its workforce. He stated that the Durham tourism industry brought in over $1 billion in 2022 and that tourism “puts money back in people’s hands.” 

Williams stated that the success of Durham lies in partnerships with the corporate community, schools and other cities in the region, believing that they can “build a perfect relationship” with all of these communities. 

He identified Duke University as a significant contributor to the Durham economy, as an institution that employs over 40,000 people and creates an economic impact of over $1 billion. 

He mentioned that the Durham City Council approved $31 million to fund sidewalks and street repairs in response to community complaints. He also addressed the success of Durham’s public transit and a recent federal grant that Durham was awarded worth more than 10 million dollars for transit and the Village Transit Center improvement, and that Durham will continue to have fare-free transit. 

Williams brought City Manager Wanda Page to the stage to acknowledge her hard work in bringing Durham to the forefront of many achievements across the country, including being rated the 17th best place to live in America, 14th best-run city in America and the best-run city in North Carolina.

Williams also recognized school board members, first responders and other officials in the audience who contributed to Durham’s success. He later referenced a resident survey, which found that Durhamites wanted more police protection to increase safety in the community. 

He presented Senator Mike Woodard with a coin for his service to the city.

“With open ears, open minds and an open heart, the problems faced by our community are solvable and the opportunities are endless,” Williams said. “Look in the mirror, see what I see, believe what I believe and say what I say Durham is dope.”

Aseel Ibrahim | Associate News Editor

Aseel Ibrahim is a Trinity first-year and an associate news editor for the news department.       


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