Donald E. Williams, Jr. is currently in his eighth term, having first been elected in a special election in 1993 from the 29th Senate District. In July 2004, Senator Williams was elected by the members of the state Senate to serve as President Pro Tempore, the highest-ranking legislator in the Connecticut General Assembly. He was reelected to the prestigious post in 2005 and again in 2007.
During his state Senate career, Senator Williams has developed a reputation as a thoughtful, effective legislator who has successfully spearheaded a variety of cutting-edge reforms. His policy priorities have included campaign finance reform, ethics reform, the protection of children, improving the environment, and safeguarding the social safety net that is critical to families in need throughout his district and the entire state of Connecticut.
As chairman of the Environment Committee, Senator Williams authored legislation to clean up power plants that pollute Connecticut's air and can cause asthma and respiratory problems. He led the fight to preserve the state's natural water resources, fishing and the shellfish industry in Long Island Sound. He has fought for Connecticut farmers in an effort to preserve the character and heritage of the state and to keep agriculture economically viable.
As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Williams authored legislation creating both the Office of the Child Advocate and the Office of the Victim Advocate, and sponsored a number of bills to prevent domestic violence.
Senator Williams is also a strong voice for the disadvantaged. The Connecticut Association of Local Administrators of General Assistance named him Legislator of the Year in 1996 for his role in fighting to preserve fairness in legislation to reform Connecticut's welfare system. In addition, he created the Office of the Health Care Advocate to help ensure quality health care for Connecticut residents of all income levels. His efforts to increase financial aid at state colleges and universities have created greater access to higher education for working-class students.
Shortly after being elected in 1993, Senator Williams authored legislation creating the first enterprise corridor zones in rural areas to help attract and retain jobs in northeastern Connecticut. For the first time in Connecticut, rural towns in need of economic development were able to utilize the same economic development benefits that had been provided in the past to certain urban centers.
Since his election as Senate President, Senator Williams has been a leading advocate for cleaning up government. He authored legislation to reform the State Ethics Commission and supported sweeping changes to the campaign finance system and the state contracting process. With the creation of a publicly funded campaign finance system in 2005, Connecticut now has the strongest reform laws in the nation.
He also succeeded in creating a yearly funding stream for farmland preservation, open space acquisition, historic preservation and affordable housing. Each worthy cause will receive several million dollars annually due to legislation authored by Senator Williams in the 2005 legislative session.
Senator Williams led the fight improve school nutrition and make Connecticut a national leader in preventing childhood obesity. In 2006, he claimed victory over the high-powered soda and junk food companies with the passage of school nutrition legislation that includes an outright ban on the sale of soda and other unhealthy beverages in schools. The bill also includes a tripling of state funding for school districts that offer healthier food choices for sale to students. Because of this legislation, Connecticut is now a national model in the fight against childhood obesity.
Prior to his election to the state Senate, Senator Williams served two terms as First Selectman of the Town of Thompson. While he was the chief executive officer of Thompson, he received national recognition from the Environmental Protection Agency for his success in launching a mandatory recycling program. In addition, he helped create affordable housing for low-income families and senior citizens, and he revitalized a former town center with the construction of a riverside park and recreation area, a community center and library.
Senator Williams graduated from Syracuse University in 1980, and was the News and Public Affairs Director of WINY Radio in Putnam for three years.
Senator Williams earned his law degree from Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Virginia in 1986, where he was the Law Review Research Editor, and received the University Service Award. Senator Williams is married to Laura Williams, and has a daughter, Nina.