Former Garner mayor Ronnie S. Williams passed away Saturday, Sept. 12, at the age of 72.
Williams had served as mayor from 2005 until last December, when he was succeeded by current Mayor Ken Marshburn. Before being elected mayor, Williams had served for 20 years on Garner’s Board of Aldermen (since renamed the Town Council).
During the Garner native’s more than three decades of public service, the town blossomed from a sleepy community along a rail line to a dynamic, fast-growing suburb of over 30,000 residents adjacent to downtown Raleigh.
“Under Mayor Williams’ leadership, Garner experienced a transformation that brought prosperity and opportunity while maintaining our town’s unique charm and character,” Mayor Marshburn said. “Garner’s ability to grow while holding on to its vital community spirit and identity is a testament to Mayor Williams’ vision and to his love for his hometown.”
Williams’ tenure as mayor was marked by numerous accomplishments that greatly enhanced the community’s quality of life and the level of municipal services provided to Garner residents.
His first term as mayor got underway with completion of renovations of the Garner Performing Arts Center auditorium in the old Garner High School building. In 2009, the Town opened the 96-acre White Deer Park and its LEED Gold Certified Nature Center.
In 2013, thanks to a citizen-led initiative and with the support of the Town, the Garner Veterans Memorial in Lake Benson Park was dedicated. That same year saw voter approval of a $35.7 million bond program that enabled the construction of a new Town Hall, police headquarters and other projects including the Garner Recreation Center.
In June 2013, Garner was named an All-America City. Williams led a delegation of community representatives who traveled to Denver to compete and win the prestigious honor, known as “the Nobel Prize for civic accomplishment.”
Williams also helped guide the town through tragedy when in 2009 an explosion at the old ConAgra plant on Jones Sausage Road killed four people. During his last term as mayor, the Town was able to announce plans to redevelop the former ConAgra site as an Amazon fulfillment center. That center recently opened, bringing over 3,000 jobs and $200 million of new investment to Garner.
Williams assumed roles of regional and statewide leadership during his tenure as mayor. He served as chair of the Wake County Mayors Association from 2007 to 2009 and was selected to be an at-large member of the N.C. League of Municipalities’ Board of Directors.
Williams was especially proud of his service to his country. He graduated from Garner High School in 1966, attended Wake Community College then served in U.S. Army. He was deployed to Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. Williams was a member of American Legion Post 232 and Garner VFW Post 10225.
In addition to his military service, Williams was a former first responder. He was a volunteer both in the Garner Volunteer Fire Department and in Garner EMS, serving as chief of the latter from 1980 to 1983.
Williams is survived by his wife, Betsy, as well as two sons and a grandchild. Ronnie and Betsy married in 1972.
Funeral arrangements for Williams are pending.