After officially adjourning the 88th General Assembly 2012 fiscal session, House members set out to make history.
On Friday, March 9, Rep. Darrin Williams, D-Little Rock, became the first African-American selected to be Speaker-designate of the House of Representatives on a 54-46 vote, presumably along party lines. Currently, Democrats hold 54 seats in the 100-member House and Republicans control 46 seats. The vote is conducted using a secret ballot.
Williams, 43, who serves House District 36 in eastern Pulaski County, is a two-term representative and is unopposed for a third term. He defeated Rep. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, for the House’s top post and will succeed Rep. Robert Moore, D-Arkansas City, in the 89th General Assembly, which convenes in January 2013, although there is speculation that House members could change their minds if Republicans take control of the House after November’s elections.
Williams has said it would be difficult to change House leaders in 2013 because of the prep work done in advance of the future session.
“Whoever is elected, the body will get behind that person and work toward preparing for a very good 89th General Assembly and we won’t change horses in mid-stream because that is going to cost us the state of Arkansas a lot of time and money and it’s going to be inefficient,” Williams told Talk Business blogger Michael Cook last week.
In speaking to House members in advance of today’s vote, Williams urged members to choose him based on his experience.
“If elected your speaker, I pledge to serve with fairness, humility and integrity,” Williams said. “We’re products of our experiences and all of our experiences matter.”
He pledged to put his experience to work to build an open-door policy, trust, and working coalitions to achieve legislative objectives.
“My record shows that I am a consensus leader,” Williams said. “I’m a proud Democrat, but I respect the Republicans in this chamber … however, we must reject Washington, D.C.-style politics.”
Continuing he said: “I want to foster an environment where we have a patchwork quilt of ideas, not where we have red blankets and blue blankets.”
An attorney with Carney Williams PLLC, Williams chaired the House Judiciary committee in the 88th General Assembly. He also serves on the influential House Rules panel; Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs; Arkansas Legislative Council; the Arkansas Lottery Commission Legislative Oversight Committee; the Code Revision Commission, and the Public School Desegregation Lawsuit Resolution Task Force.
He was the lead House sponsor for the Governor’s comprehensive prison reform measure, which modified sentencing guidelines in an effort to save money in the state prison system.
Williams graduated from Little Rock Central High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College. He holds a J.D. from the Vanderbilt University School of Law and attended the Georgetown University Law Center.
Williams and his wife, Nicole, have two sons.