President Donald Trump on Thursday (Oct. 26) named Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, to a position on the Southern States Energy Board, an interstate compact composed of governors and state legislators from 16 southern states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that promotes energy policy across the region.
Williams, a former Cabot mayor who now represents the expansive District 29 that spreads across parts of Lonoke, Faulkner and Pulaski counties, said he will have to resign as state senator over the next 30 to 45 days.
“I have mixed feelings about this new chapter in my life,” said Williams. “While I’m excited about making a difference in national energy policy, I’m truly going to miss the people I represent in the Senate. It has been a privilege, on a daily basis, to discuss issues with constituents and interact with them.”
Under Arkansas law, Williams’ senate seat will have to be filled through a special election. Williams ran unopposed for the District 29 Senate seat in 2016 after defeating GOP opponent R.D. Hopper in the Republican primary with just over 55% of the vote.
“Serving in the Senate has been a blessing in many ways. I’ve been able to influence public policy, and at the same time I get to meet people on a daily basis, make new friends and stay caught up with old ones,” Williams said. “The people have always made me feel so at home, when I go to the Capitol I feel like I’m representing family.”
As chairman of the Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs, Williams spearheaded Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s agenda of making government smaller and more efficient. He also serves on the governor’s Transformation Team, whose duty is to reduce the size of state agencies. Williams was the lead sponsor of legislation that initiates cost savings in state agencies and plans for restructuring government departments to make them more efficient. He also sponsored legislation that will move the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors into the Arkansas Insurance Department in 2018.
In the recent legislative session, Williams was also lead sponsor of Act 281 to install a memorial to Gold Star families on the lawn of the state Capitol. Gold Star families have lost a family member who has died while in military service. Williams is an Army and Air Force veteran who also lost a cousin in the Vietnam War.
In accepting President Trump’s invitation to serve on the Southern States Energy Board, Williams will join Gov. Hutchinson on the executive committee of the panel created by Congress in 1960 to enhance economic development and the quality of life in the South through innovations in energy and environmental policies, programs and technologies. His tenure on the regional board, which is chaired by Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi, will be at the president’s pleasure.
The regional energy compact’s membership includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia and West Virginia.
“At the Southern States Energy Board, I’ll have the opportunity to serve the people of 16 states, including Arkansas, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” Williams said. “In fact, I can assume that one of my first responsibilities will be to help restore the energy grids on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, which were damaged so badly by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.”
Before his election to the Arkansas legislature, Williams served three terms on the Cabot City Council and was mayor of Cabot from 2007 through 2010. In private life, he worked for Union Pacific Railroad for almost 40 years, including serving as regional director of transportation where he managed daily operations for the eastern division covering Illinois to Louisiana.