Public Profile: Hank Williams, Mayor of Central Point
In a new series, the Rogue Valley Messenger catches up with public officials in the region, and asks for their insights into local issues—and solutions. Retired banker Henry “Hank” Williams is the Mayor of Central Point and has won six consecutive elections; he also serves on the Rogue Valley Area Commission on Transportation and the Medford Water Commission, and was previously the president of the Jackson County Fair Board.
RVM: You started this gig back in 2002. What are the big changes that you’ve been able to oversee in the city during those 13 years?
HW: The Mayor doesn’t have a whole lot of authority; he may have some influence on things. At one time before the recession hit, we were the second-fastest growing city in Oregon (of cities under 50,000).
We’re trying to get people working together. Our fire department when I was here merged with Fire District #3, which is a whole lot more efficient than Central Point trying to have its own department because equipment is so expensive and you have to have people on 24 hours a day. After we went through the recession, we actually have fewer staff people now than before.
RVM: Even though you have more population?
HW: We consolidated departments and cross-trained our staff to do what needs to be done. It’s a matter of economics; you don’t have the money so you figure out how to be more efficient.
RVM: What’s been your strategy for economic development in Central Point?
HW: Costco’s about ready to move into Central Point; they’re talking to us anyway. Our residential building is up a lot from where it was; it’s coming back. But we’re really short on building lots in the valley, as most of the cities in the state are because of the way Oregon’s land use law works and how long it makes things take.
RVM: We understand you have a pretty capable planning director who’s helped the city prepare for the growth you’ve seen.
HW: We have what I consider an excellent staff, Tom [Humphrey]’s a good planning director, we have a good City Manager, and we have a Council which gets along with each other, doesn’t fight and seems to have common goals. We don’t have a lot of the dissention that a lot of the cities seem to have. We’re trying to get our urban reserves, some of them at least, turned into urban growth boundaries.
RVM: In your most recent City Newsletter it highlighted your leadership award.
HW: I was kind of surprised about that! The City Manager called me up, he said: ‘When you go to the Oregon Mayor’s conference, you have to stay for the banquet.’ When I asked why, he just said: ‘Just stay, don’t argue with me!’ So I did.
The award was for bringing people together. I don’t like turf wars.
RVM: Have issues of homelessness spilled over from Medford into Central Point?
HW: We all have them. The bike path in summer especially tends to bring them; homeless people camp there and with all the blackberries and all the bushes it’s hard to find them. We want to figure out how to keep them from being homeless because homelessness is a real problem everywhere, as much in Central Point as anywhere else.
Access has this grant for homeless veterans and it’s working! I was kind of surprised when they told us they got the grant, but they are reasonably successful getting people willing to provide housing rentals for veterans and our goal, of course, is to move them into a sustainable lifestyle, get them training and off of drugs or alcohol, get them into jobs and becoming self-sufficient. That’s our goal, it’s tough but we try.
RVM: So you’re real name is Henry, how’d you manage to get the handle of Hank?
HW: It just happened! (laughs) I don’t know. I didn’t try to make it happen.
RVM: You enjoy his music?
HW: Yeah. The original Hank Williams.