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Stephen L. Williams

Government administrator Stephen L. Williams was born on June 10, 1956, in Waycross, Georgia to Loretta Williams and Rosebud Smith, Sr. Williams graduated from Waycross High School in 1974, and earned his B.A. degree in sociology and social work from Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama in 1977. He went on to receive his M.Ed. degree from Auburn University at Montgomery, and his M.P.A. degree from Baruch College, City University of New York, through the National Urban Fellowship program.

Beginning in 1995, Williams served as an administrator of public health and deputy director of Travis County’s Health and Human Services and Veteran Service Department in Austin, Texas. He became the director of public health for the Houston Department of Health and Human Services in 2004. Under his administration, the department launched community outreach programs such as Project Saving Smiles, which provided oral screenings to elementary school students; See to Succeed, which partnered with private organizations to provide children with eye exams and glasses; and Assessment, Intervention, and Mobilization (AIM), a door-to-door responsive services program. In 2006, Williams initiated the Hip Hop for HIV Awareness intervention project. He also collaborated with Enroll Gulf Coast to consult Houstonians on accessing health insurance through the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Williams also served as an adjunct professor for the University Of Texas School of Public Health.

Williams served on numerous boards and organizations. He was chairman of the Texas Department of State Health Services Public Funding and Policy Committee, the Coalition of the Homeless of Houston/Harris County and the Harris County System of Hope. He served on the National Commission on Prevention Priorities, the Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health External Advisory Board, the Texas Agri-Life Extension Services Urban Advisory Board, and the Harris County Healthcare Alliance Board. Williams was a member of the National Association of City and County Health Officials, American Public Health Association, Rotary Club of Houston, and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. Williams also served as president of the Texas Association of Local Health Officials.

Stephen L. Williams was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 28, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.117

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/28/2016

Last Name

Williams

Maker Category
Schools

Huntingdon College

Auburn University

Baruch College

Center Junior High School

Reidsville School

Gilchrist Park Elementary School

Waycross High School

First Name

Stephen

Birth City, State, Country

Waycross

HM ID

WIL77

Favorite Season

Spring and Fall

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Florida

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

6/10/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Houston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Jamaican Food

Short Description

Government administrator Stephen L. Williams (1956 - ) served as administrator of public health and deputy director of Travis County’s Health and Human Services and Veteran Service Department in Austin, Texas, before becoming the director of public health for the Houston Department of Health and Human Services in 2004.

Employment

Houston's Department of Health and Human Services

Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority, Inc.

Maricopa County Department of Public Health

Austin/Travis County Department of Health and Human Services

Favorite Color

Blue, Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Stephen L. Williams' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Stephen L. Williams lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Stephen L. Williams describes his mother's occupation and education

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Stephen L. Williams remembers his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Stephen L. Williams remembers his maternal great-uncle

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Stephen L. Williams describes his relationship with his father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Stephen L. Williams lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Stephen L. Williams describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Stephen L. Williams remembers his neighborhood in Waycross, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Stephen L. Williams describes the smells and sounds of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Stephen L. Williams remembers his closest childhood friend

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Stephen L. Williams describes his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Stephen L. Williams recalls residential segregation in Waycross, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Stephen L. Williams describes his early memories of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Stephen L. Williams remembers holidays with his family

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Stephen L. Williams recalls attending Center Junior High School in Waycross, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Stephen L. Williams remembers attending Waycross High School in Waycross, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Stephen L. Williams remembers his summer jobs

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Stephen L. Williams recalls his decision to attend Huntington College in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Stephen L. Williams remembers his prom date at Waycross High School

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Stephen L. Williams talks about the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Stephen L. Williams remembers the male mentors in his neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Stephen L. Williams recalls attending Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Stephen L. Williams remembers his mentors at Huntingdon College, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Stephen L. Williams remembers his mentors at Huntingdon College, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Stephen L. Williams recalls working at the Alabama Industrial School for Boys in Mount Meigs, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Stephen L. Williams remembers working for the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Stephen L. Williams talks about his first job after college

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Stephen L. Williams recalls attending Auburn University at Montgomery in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Stephen L. Williams remembers leaving the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Stephen L. Williams describes the National Urban Fellows program

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Stephen L. Williams recalls working in Maricopa County, Arizona

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Stephen L. Williams remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Stephen L. Williams recalls working in community development for Maricopa County, Arizona

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Stephen L. Williams describes the public health programs he started in Maricopa, Arizona

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Stephen L. Williams recalls becoming a public health administrator in Austin, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Stephen L. Williams talks about serving as an executive manager in Austin, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Stephen L. Williams recalls being hired as director of the health department in Houston, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Stephen L. Williams talks about restructuring the Houston Health and Human Services Department

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Stephen L. Williams describes the Assessment, Intervention and Mobilization initiative

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Stephen L. Williams talks about the Healthy Families Houston program

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Stephen L. Williams remembers hosting eye screenings with OneSight

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Stephen L. Williams recalls providing health services for children in Houston, Texas, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Stephen L. Williams recalls providing health services for children in Houston, Texas, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Stephen L. Williams talks about initiatives to enroll residents in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Stephen L. Williams talks about improving interactions between the police and mentally ill residents

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Stephen L. Williams recalls reducing inappropriate emergency calls

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Stephen L. Williams shares his views on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Stephen L. Williams describes targeted public health campaigns in Houston, Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Stephen L. Williams talks about his focus on chronic disease prevention

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Stephen L. Williams talks about disaster prevention in Houston, Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Stephen L. Williams talks about the Harris County Area Agency on Aging

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Stephen L. Williams describes his approach to the My Brother's Keeper initiative in Houston, Texas

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Stephen L. Williams lists his organizations and awards, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Stephen L. Williams lists his organizations and awards, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Stephen L. Williams talks about his plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Stephen L. Williams describes his family

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Stephen L. Williams reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Stephen L. Williams shares advice for future generations

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Stephen L. Williams describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$3

DAStory

2$2

DATitle
Stephen L. Williams recalls providing health services for children in Houston, Texas, pt. 1
Stephen L. Williams recalls working at the Alabama Industrial School for Boys in Mount Meigs, Alabama
Transcript
And then the next thing that happened was that OneSight, during the economic downturn, said they could no longer afford to come here two weeks out of the year and they would only do a week. And so here we have at least seventeen thousand kids probably needing glasses and only one week, which means that we would see, what, maybe twelve hundred kids. And so we created a, we had, in, in the meantime we had created a Houston Health Foundation [Houston, Texas] which is a nonprofit with a separate board that's appointed by the mayor that raises money for certain initiatives within the health department [Houston Health Department], vision happens to be one of those. And we recruited a couple of retired colleagues to come and help us look at how we can respond to that gap in services. And so we formed a public-private partnership with Walmart [Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.], with the Essilor Foundation [Essilor Vision Foundation] which is an international foundation, with Berkeley Eye Center [Houston, Texas], University of Houston school of optometry [University of Houston College of Optometry, Houston, Texas], San Jacinto school [San Jacinto College, Pasadena, Texas], to create, to recreate the OneSight model that the folks from Chicago [Illinois] were doing. And we started out the first week doing a trial run and we initially kept the numbers down low and where we could see four hundred kids, we saw four hundred kids that first week. Our, our volunteers and staff were so excited with this that they decided to expand and do another project. And so I challenged my folks, we visited with Chicago, they were seeing like ten thousand kids a year. And so I challenged our folks to figure out how we could build a capacity to see ten thousand kids a year. Not only did we develop the capacity over the years to see ten thousand kids a year, we were able to see over four hundred kids a day. And we do this six times a year, one week at a time. And we have formed a vision collaborative in this community bringing in every, the other partners that are interested in, in vision. 90 percent of the children that we see need glasses. There--the first really touching story that I had heard was of a seventh grader that didn't realize that he had lines in his hands. And we're continuing to do that and we wanna expand that capacity because that number in spite of what we've done has really gotten to twenty thousand kids a year and so we're trying to match that twenty thousand with the kids that we actually see. And we have had interventions where, that were lifesaving in some instances. Our folks saw a, a, a child with a detached retina. Another woman, a teenager, who was pregnant who had vision issues but that was only a symptom of another illness that she had. And so that's something that we want to continue to do as a safety net provider. It would be good if we were able to do this in the regular system but these are kids that may have Medicaid, that for whatever reason their parents don't get them in to be seen. And then another interesting thing is that a lot of the school nurses know the kids that need glasses and have actually been trying to encourage the parents over a couple of years to get these kids in to see them. We like--we work very closely with the school districts to arrange for transportation for these kids to come in to our site but we also have been mobile, we go out to places like Pasadena [Texas] to see these kids because it's funded both by, by our foundation and monies that we raised through foundations.$Okay and so you said three, so Dr. Beverly [ph.], Dr. Stanton [Thomas F. Stanton]--$$And, gosh, I think her name was Miss Anderson [ph.] but I'm not sure. I can see her face, I know her daughter, but I got involved in a program called the University Year for Action. It's kind of like, it's a part of the VISTA [Volunteers in Service to America; Americorps VISTA] program, back in the day. And so this involved me going to school [Huntingdon College, Montgomery, Alabama] but then have a practical work experience and I think that really like turned my life around because at age eighteen or nineteen I went to work at a juvenile prison [Alabama Industrial School for Boys; Mount Meigs Campus] in Mount Meigs, Alabama, where I worked in a drug treatment program, I was a counselor. And the young folks that I was working with, I was only a couple of years older than they were, and I got exposed to things that I didn't necessarily, I wasn't really exposed to before in, in Waycross [Georgia] in terms of, you know, the fact that, you know, kids committed crimes, they got a couple of chances but after a few chances, you know, they went to prison. And we had kids that were in this program that had done major crimes. One kid had actually killed someone. I remember one kid, he was only thirteen but we ended up having to send him to South Carolina because we didn't have a facility in Alabama that could actually hold him. And so I just started to learn about that. And the director of the program, Jim Portavent [ph.], he ended up, you know, hiring me when I was twenty years old because I stayed in the program for more than a year and I think you had to be twenty-one to work but by the time I was twenty I actually had work experience and they knew me and so they hired me even though I was under age. And so that I think opened a lot of doors for me. So it was miss, Miss Anderson, I forget her name, but anyhow he ran that program and really because there were two other guys that went out to that institution with me, I was the only one that actually worked out. One of 'em quit, one of 'em got kicked out. And so I helped to make that program look good and so she was very supportive. But the campus culture with the adults there, is with guys that were supportive, both African American and, and white guys, Portavent was white.$$So, so after working there, how long did you, what, what year was this that you worked there?$$I think it was after my freshman or sophomore year, I'm not really that sure. Actually, it's on my resume.$$Well, it's like 1975 or so; right?$$Probably '75 [1975], '76 [1976]. I--god, it's--it's like the dark ages now since--$$(Laughter).$$--I'm so old.