Sam Williams came to Sullivan Higdon and Sink 25 years ago as a certified public accountant and its chief financial officer.
When he retires at the end of June, Williams, 62, will leave as one of the agency’s four managing partners.
Williams helped to reshape and grow the advertising agency.
“He was not a typical CFO,” said Wichita managing partner Tom Bertels, who has worked with Williams for 13 years. “In fact, it was seldom we called him a CFO. He is broad in his expertise.”
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SHS co-founder Al Higdon and his partners Wendell Sullivan and Vaughn Sink hired Williams in 1989. At the time, Williams was working as the CFO of an independent ad agency in Salt Lake City.
“I think it’s important, the timing on this,” Higdon said. “We needed someone of his stature and ability … (and) he was ready to broaden his leadership and exposure beyond the financial aspect of things. … The fact that the current leadership more than doubled the size (of the agency) speaks to their skill and ability, something we were not able to do. And Sam has been an integral part of each and every one of those steps.”
The agency, based in Wichita, has 125 employees and $115 million in annual billings among its Wichita, Kansas City and Washington, D.C., offices.
Williams’ legacy at SHS will be the importance he put on community involvement, Bertels said. During his time at SHS, Williams has served on the boards of a number of community organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America Quivira Council and United Way of the Plains. He also was chairman of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce in 2010 and is currently chairman of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. and Envision.
Bertels said Williams made sure to keep “front and center” at SHS the importance of the agency and its leaders being actively involved in important issues and organizations – stressing that by helping to make Wichita a better place, they helped to build the potential of SHS and its clients.
“Sam really picked up that mantle and in many ways became the local face of SHS in the community over a period of 10 or 15 years,” Higdon added.
Bertels said Williams’ managing partner post will not be filled, adding that when Joe Norris retired in 2008, “we went from five (managing partners) to four.”
“We’ve known this was coming for a while,” Bertels said.
The agency’s vice presidents in Wichita will increase their community involvement, Bertels said, and he and Kansas City managing partners Rand Mikulecky and Lynell Stucky will be “splitting up the other things.”
Bertels noted that the agency’s controller also just earned his certified public accountant designation.
Williams said it’s time for him to “get on with the rest of my life,” including doing some things “my wife wants me to do” as well as learn to play the guitar.
He will continue to live in Wichita, he said, and stay involved with community organizations. Four of his six children life in Wichita, along with nine grandchildren.
A retirement reception for Williams has been set for 4 to 6 p.m. June 18 at SHS, 255 N. Mead in Old Town.