By Samantha Nuechterlein
The Women in Politics Making a Difference Awards will recognize 16 outstanding women over the course of a year. Each season—spring, summer, fall and winter—the Women's Legislative Network will profile four women who are making their marks in their legislatures and communities. This is the final profile of the four honorees for spring.
Senator Sandra Williams, Ohio, Democrat
Williams comes to the Ohio Legislature with an interesting background: She was an administrative assistant in the U.S. Army Reserves, a corrections and probation officer for years in Cleveland, a youth parole officer, and a legislative aide to Representative Annie Key of Cleveland, a background that demonstrates her commitment to the Cleveland community.
Williams brings to the Ohio legislature a passion and spunk that is felt by all constituents in Cleveland—from young children attaining a public education to minority and female working populations.
Who was your political hero growing up?
Arnold Pinkney, who was a political mentor of mine, was my hero when it comes to politics. Mr. Pinkney was elected years ago to the Cleveland school board – he served on many board and commissions across the state, he was a political strategist—he helped so many people get to where they are today. He taught me about negotiation, working at the legislature, speaking to constituents and understanding the things that my district needs.
What was the last book you read that inspired you?
The last book that inspired me was "The Longest Debate" by Charles and Barbara Whalen, which deals with the legislative history of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I read this because a few years ago one of my colleagues asked me if I would work with him to get a statue of William McCulloch, who was not only a speaker in the Ohio House but a military veteran and a Republican congressman. Mr. McCulloch was one of the, if not the, key vote to actually pass the Civil Rights Act. His wife brought forward old letters from the president of the United States asking him to vote for the Civil Rights Act. I read the documents that my colleague gave me and read this book and decided that I would definitely put my name on helping to get recognition for McCulloch and to get a statue of him in the Ohio chamber.
Mr. McCulloch had to hide out because people were being threatened to discourage them from voting for the Civil Rights Act. He did cast the vote that secured the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Without his vote, I might not be in the legislature.
What are you most proud of in your time as a legislator?
What I am most proud of are the opportunities that I have had to bring employment opportunities and contracting opportunities back to my community, especially giving greater access to minority and women-owned businesses to maintain contract work. I am also proud because with the legislative makeup that we have here in Ohio, it takes working with both parties, Republicans and Democrats alike, in order to get things done. I’ve been able to work in a bipartisan fashion to get things accomplished that I think weigh heavily especially in the type of environment that we have the country and the world right now when it comes to politics.
If you were to give advice to any young women across the country graduating from high school today, what would it be?
The world is much bigger than you think. There are so many opportunities out there for you to accomplish anything. Travel, expand you horizons, meet new people, and don’t settle too soon. Follow the big dreams you have. Sometimes women limit themselves. There is so much out there, dream big and follow those dreams. Never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something.You can do anything you put your mind to.
Samantha Nuechterlein is staff coordinator for the NCSL Foundation and Member Outreach.