Volusia County School Board Chairman Al Williams died Oct. 1, and the School Board held a remembrance for him at the start of its Tuesday meeting.
BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR
The Volusia County School Board held a remembrance at the start of the Tuesday, Oct. 9 meeting, for its chairman, Al Williams, who died Oct. 1.
With Williams’ family in attendance, the board took turns sharing stories about “Dr. Al,” expounding on the mark he’ll leave on the district.
“This is really hard, because we spend an awful lot of time together ... and it really is like losing a family member,” School Board member Stan Schmidt said. “Truly, Al was a family member.”
But the real power of his’ legacy, he added, lie in the fact that he was a “living demonstration to the importance of education."
Williams grew up on “the mean streets” of Chicago, Schmidt explained. But after a lot of hard work — he earned a doctoral degree in education administration from Columbia University and a master’s degree from both Northeastern Illinois University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University — he went on to fill positions in several Fortune 500 companies and then in the public school system.
School Board member Diane Smith echoed that point, when she described her first “Where are you, Al, when I need you?” moment, which she experienced last weekend. After reading a story about a young out-of-county athlete who got himself in trouble for tweeting a comment about how class was a waste of time when he knew that he was going to play football for a living, she immediately thought of Williams.
He would have jumped at the chance to set the student straight, Smith said. Every vote he ever cast, she added, he based off of one simple question: Is this in the best interest of the children?
“Al absolutely loved the students in Volusia County,” Vice-Chairwoman Judy Conte added. “He brought a unique perspective to the board and was someone who could serve as a role model for those youngsters living in a challenging circumstance. ... He was a gentle giant.”
Candace Lankford, who called herself William’s “second wife” — since she used to take away his donuts and straighten his tie — focused on Williams’ more personal attributes.
“It was just such a bond of affection that we had,” she said. “That piece of our School Board, that space, (is missing).”
The board then read a resolution in Williams' memory and followed it with letters of condolences sent by the Seminole County School Board and the Volusia County Council.
“He was a tireless champion for Volusia County,” the council wrote. “(We) have lost ... a great community leader.”
Williams served as a Volusia County School Board member from 1984-1992. He was reelected to the board in 2004 and won another four-year term in August.
Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall is currently consulting the state on how to fill Williams’ vacant seat.