By Alex Bridges
Friends and colleagues remember popular Mount Jackson Mayor Joseph A. "Joe" Williams as a talkative go-getter who helped improve the town.
Williams, 80, died Tuesday after a short illness.
Vice Mayor Kay Pool Whetzel reflected on Williams and his 15 years as mayor of the town.
"I don't know anybody that didn't know Joe," Whetzel said by phone Tuesday evening. "He didn't know a stranger. He was just a phenomenal man.
"He is surely going to be missed," Whetzel added. "I don't think I could ever fill his shoes."
Williams fell ill days before the Town Council meeting earlier this month and members expressed hope for his recovery.
"I really felt like he would come around," Whetzel said. "That's just the way he was. I just felt like he would pull through it."
Williams won election to his first term in 1998 as a write-in candidate, according to a town press release. Williams defeated longtime mayor Dewey Jordan. Write-in victories don't often happen, but in Williams' case, Whetzel recalled the challenger had a lot of support. Williams received about 70 percent of the vote. Town voters re-elected Williams three times by wide margins, according to a news release.
Williams accomplished much during his 15 years leading the town. Under Williams and community support, Mount Jackson built its Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street, the town hall visitors center that combines the municipal offices, a museum and a library.
"Just about everything new that came to Mount Jackson, Joe had something to do with it," Whetzel said. "He was a go-getter."
The Mount Jackson apple basket water tower came from an idea of Williams had to hold a community-wide contest to design the structure's artwork.
Whetzel served a term under Jordan before Williams' election. Whetzel recalled that "it was time for a change" for the town, though she had no problem with Jordan.
"He was such a good man," Whetzel said of Williams. "I've seen him angry, not angry. I've seen him funny and I've seen him serious and I've sat beside him ... ever since we had our new town office and not seeing him there is not going to be good.
"I don't think it's hit most of us yet," Whetzel added.
Whetzel said she tried to contact Williams' family but understood what they were going through.
As a mayor, Williams "would step up to the plate" on issues he felt needed addressing, Whetzel said. When leading council, Williams could "calm" down members if he needed to, she added.
Meetings run under Williams could last a long time, Whetzel recalled.
"Joe liked to talk," Whetzel said. "He talked to everybody and sometimes they did go a little bit longer than needed to, but I don't know that it never upset anybody."
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or email@example.com