Keys to Lifetime of Public Service, says Paul Williams, are Mentorship and ‘Showing Up’
While being honored as an “outstanding leader, a dedicated public servant, and a dynamic force for good,” Humphrey School of Public Affairs alumnus Paul Williams displayed his trademark humility, describing himself as a “worker bee.”
“I show up. I believe in the power of being there and doing the work,” he said, while also crediting his family for instilling in him a deep commitment to public service.
“We call it the family business in our house. We take it very seriously, and I’m grateful for that legacy,” he said.
Williams (MPA ’90), who has distinguished himself through a lifetime of public service, received the University of Minnesota’s Outstanding Achievement Award—one of the University’s highest honors—at a February 2 recognition breakfast at the Humphrey School.
The award recognizes University faculty, staff, and alumni who have attained distinction in their field, profession, and/or public or volunteer service.
Williams is president and CEO of Project for Pride in Living, a Twin Cities nonprofit organization serving low-income people through housing, employment training, and education.
In accepting the award, he also gave credit to the many mentors and sponsors he has had over the years who have “opened doors, invited me in, supported me and challenged me.”
“I have been a rock solid B-minus student my whole life,” Williams joked. “So many people took the time to help me along the way.”
Williams spoke warmly of his time as a student at the Humphrey School, saying it was an “invaluable experience.” He mentioned several faculty members who helped him succeed, singling out professor emeritus James Jernberg. Williams is also a member of the Humphrey School dean’s advisory council.
Williams was introduced by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, for whom Williams worked as deputy mayor from 2011 to 2014.
Coleman noted that the two of them have known each other since they were kids, attending the same elementary school in St. Paul. And he said choosing Williams to serve as his deputy was one of the most important decisions he made.
“When you pick a deputy mayor, you have to have someone who shares your vision, shares your philosophy, and has the ability to carry out those tasks,” said Coleman. “I was so happy when Paul accepted the job. He is a unique individual. His talent for collaboration helped us to get important work done together with numerous community partners.”
Coleman also praised Williams for his positive, “can-do” attitude.
“He has accomplished so much with such grace, such determination. I was happy to have Paul as my deputy mayor and I am happier to have him as my friend.”
Another Humphrey School dean’s advisory council member, Eric Jolly, received the University’s Award of Distinction—which is given to members of the community who are not alumni, faculty, or staff of the University. Jolly is president and CEO of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, and earlier served as head of the Science Museum of Minnesota.
Outstanding Achievement Award conferred on Paul Williams by University of Minnesota Regents
February 2, 2017
President and CEO, Project for Pride in Living
Outstanding leader, who has worked tirelessly to bring housing stability and employment opportunities to thousands of low-income individuals and families in Minnesota and across the nation
Dedicated public servant, who, as deputy mayor of St. Paul, guided city services and played a critical role in the resurgence of the city’s economic vitality and neighborhood stability, as well as its work to create racial equity
Dynamic force for good, whose many services to his community testify to his deep civic values and a concern for human welfare that elevates his every endeavor