Former ad executive Sam Williams said it is time for Wichita to combine its intellectual and financial capital to strengthen and maybe even re-invent Wichita so its children and grandchildren don’t leave.
“What we do as a city and a region should be founded on the principle of strengthening and helping families to be able to be the very best they can be,” said Williams, the father of six children.
Williams, 63, made the remarks Thursday when he announced his campaign for mayor in front of about 50 friends and family members at the Wichita Area Builders Association.
He recently retired as managing partner and CEO of Sullivan Higdon & Sink, the state’s largest advertising firm, after 25 years. He was appointed to the newly formed K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission in July by Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and was elected its leader.
Williams cited four priorities, including job creation and growing the economy by creating a vibrant business environment.
He also wants to lead the effort to build trust in local government by making it “open, accountable and transparent.”
“Trust is earned by focusing on core functions of government, such as water, streets and public safety,” Williams said.
Williams, a former chairman of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, also wants to lead efforts to diversify the local economy. Wichita has talked about that for years, he said, but it has never followed through.
He wants to create and strengthen alliances between entrepreneurs and the community, he said, and he supports the vision of Wichita State University President John Bardo to help create jobs through innovation.
Williams said after his announcement that he did not take part on either side of the sales tax campaign that failed at the polls in November. He said he supports the issues it targeted — water, jobs, infrastructure and transit.
He also said that incentives for businesses are critical for Wichita to be competitive.
“But I believe we can figure out a world-class Wichita way to do it differently,” Williams said. “That opportunity exists for us, and I’m going to do my darndest to figure out what it is.”
Williams said his final priority is to be “the greatest salesman and cheerleader for Wichita.”
Although that sounds silly, he said, “It’s a primary responsibility for a mayor to tell a story and to get out in front and explain why it’s the best place in the world to have a business and grow.”
He has served on the boards of a number of community organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America Quivira Council and United Way of the Plains. He was chamber chairman in 2010, is a former chairman of the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and is currently chairman of the Envision board.
The mayoral race also includes Council Member Jeff Longwell; former Republican gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Winn; local attorney Sean Hatfield; and sheet metal worker Robert Culver. Former Mayor Bob Knight said Thursday that he was filing the financial paperwork and considering another run for the office.
The filing deadline is Jan. 27.
Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or firstname.lastname@example.org.