Mark Williams figured he’d spend a few years working in Wake Forest and then move on to lead bigger towns.
But he has stayed for 32 years, leading the town through major growth and overseeing several big projects.
Williams, 57, recently announced his plan to retire as town manager on April 30.
“I kind of feel like I’ve closed the chapter on several things, and before we open a new a chapter, it’s time we let someone else step in,” Williams said.
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He came to Wake Forest from Henderson in 1983 as the town’s new parks and recreation director. At the time, Wake Forest had less than 3,500 residents.
While he led the parks and rec department, Williams returned to school and earned a master’s degree in public administration from N.C. State University.
He was eventually named town manager, a title he has held for 22 years.
Today, Wake Forest has more than 37,000 people.
Williams helped lead the way for the town’s growth. He oversaw the creation of Flaherty Park, helped bring bus service to town and helped negotiate the water and sewer merger with the city of Raleigh.
The Renaissance Center, an arts venue, also opened during his tenure.
“Mark has been an amazing leader for the town,” Wake Forest Commissioner Anne Reeve said. “He runs a real solid ship.”
Williams said he is most proud of Joyner Park and Town Hall. The renovation of Town Hall, a $15 million project, was completed in 2010.
The town sued the company in charge of the renovation, claiming shoddy construction. The lawsuit was recently settled, and Williams said he wanted to see the issue resolved before he retired.
The building has been a key part of downtown Wake Forest’s revitalization, which Williams hopes will continue.
“It’s a great monument to good government in Wake Forest,” he said.
But for all the successes, the town’s growth hasn’t always been easy for Williams. He has had to focus on fulfilling the ever-changing needs of a growing population.
“Not only are we growing by sheer numbers, we’re becoming more diverse,” he said. “It’s no longer one size fits all.”
That’s an issue likely to be tackled by Williams’ successor. His replacement will also help guide the town’s future. This fall, voters approved a $25 million bond package for streets, parks and more.
Williams won’t be too far away as the town continues to grow. He plans to do volunteer work and dedicate time to his yard and stamp collection.
He will participate in the town’s planning retreat early next year and will help draft the budget.
Mayor Vivian Jones said town leaders hope to be close to naming Williams’ replacement by the end of April.
The town will hire a consultant to help with the hiring process.