When Mayor Ronnie Williams said he’d run for mayor a month ago at a town council meeting, those on the council didn’t seem surprised.
But for others, the announcement may have caught them off guard. More than five years ago Williams announced he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease, a illness that usually affects people over 60, belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders, which are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells, according to the National Institute of Health.
The four primary symptoms of the disease are trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; stiff limbs, slower movement and impaired balance and coordination. As the symptoms become more pronounced, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks.
Williams’ stutters occasionally, and his speech is slurred at times making it a little difficult to understand him. He has his good days and his not-so good days. But Williams said his bad days don’t happen as often as his good days.
“Two out of thirty ain’t bad,” Williams said.
Though Williams continues to cope with the disease six years years later, he still says he will be able to accomplish his duties as mayor.
He said he went to the doctor on Tuesday and was assured he was in good enough health to run for another term.
“He gave me a good report, changed one of my medications and basically said I’m no worse,” Williams said. “I’m still progressing but it’s a slow progression.”
“For whatever reason, the Lord is keeping me fairly healthy. I guess as they say (God’s) got more work for me to do.”
Parkinson’s feels like you’ve been priming tobacco all day long in 100-degree weather, as Williams described it.
“Some days it just tires me out,” he said.
When he was diagnosed, doctors assured Williams the disease wouldn’t kill him but that it could make him feel really bad as he gets older.
Williams attends multiple events daily. He said he enjoys the ribbon cuttings, the award ceremonies that recognize Garner residents and anything that brings him around people.
“What I’ve started doing, is try to sneak home around 2 p.m. and catch me a cat nap and get back out there,” Williams, 67, said. “What is key to Parkinson’s is rest. And if I can get enough rest I’ll be OK.”
Williams wants to continue the work the current council has started. He said he still hasn’t accomplished all of the goals he set out to do four years ago.
“I want to cut the ribbon on the police station, I want to cut the ribbon on the new town hall, and I wanted a mall at White Oak,” Williams said.
Williams has served as the mayor of Garner since 2005. Of the 12 municipalities in Wake County, only four have served longer.
Prior to being elected mayor, he served as an alderman for 20 years, from 1985-2005.
Williams said he wants to continue to see the town grow. He says he’s energized for another term. And his wife of 43 years is too.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Betsy Williams said. “He’s done a great job. And as long as his health holds down he should continue to serve the town. Right now everything is good.”
Betsy Williams said she wasn’t surprised that he would run again. She said her husband has been successful as mayor because he listens.
“He doesn’t ever not take a call. He listens and let’s them talk,” Betsy Williams said. “He always give an answer. It may not always be the answer they want to hear but he always gives them an answer. He’s always available and I think the citizens appreciate that.”
Ronnie Williams said if it comes time that he can no longer do it, then he will step down. But right now, isn’t the time. He still feels good, he said.
“I’m fully aware that one day I may be confined to a wheel chair but I take it one day at a time,” Williams said. “I may not know what the future may hold but when I have to slow down I will. As long as I can stay active and stay at a pace where I think I’m doing OK I’m going to continue to serve the people of Garner.