A man who lived in public housing with his mother as a teenager and later climbed the ranks to the Housing Authority of the City of Freeport’s top job will be the next CEO of the Rockford Housing Authority. Larry Williams, 39, former CEO of the Freeport Housing Authority, is set to take the reins of the RHA. Williams comes to the job with a track record of establishing programs that set high expectations for public housing residents meant to teach self-sufficiency. For Williams, helping people escape poverty is a passion fueled by memories from 1996 of living in Apt. 118 at Parkside Homes, a public housing complex in Freeport. It was a depressing place to me,” Williams said. “I would notice people sitting around on door steps, and I don’t know, it didn’t seem like that was supposed to be home for me.” Those memories drove him to find work with a telemarketing company and work his way up to become a trainer. Williams later helped his mother move out of public housing.

He went to work for the Freeport Housing Authority and was named the CEO in 2009. His goal was to transform it from a place of desperation into one where there is an opportunity to learn what it takes to build a better life. One of his first tasks was to tear down a fence around Parkside, eliminating both a symbolic and literal barrier between the public housing property and the greater community. Williams developed the Workforce Development Institute to help Freeport residents develop soft job skills and helped establish Conversations Over Pizza to strengthen police and resident relationships. He led the creation of the Empowerment Center to host program and events geared toward the self-improvement of residents.

In Rockford, Williams said he will partner to work toward the goals of Transform Rockford to make the city a top 25 community by 2025.  “My experience and professional development allows me to do some unique things to transform the perception of the housing authority and to be an example to residents of how to make it out of poverty,” Williams said.

Williams succeeds Ron Clewer, who had served as CEO of the Rockford Housing Authority since 2012. Clewer left the post in April to become the chief operating officer for The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy organization. RHA Board Chairman Jerry Lumpkins, in a news release, said Williams was chosen from a  highly-qualified pool of candidates. “Larry will be instrumental in continuing and advancing RHA’s commitment to our strategic plan, enhancing Bridge Rockford Alliance’s portfolio, complimenting and advancing The City of Rockford’s Consolidated Plan to affirmatively further fair housing, strengthening & expanding our development partner relationships, serving our valued residents and highly dedicated staff,” Lumpkins said in the release.

Jeff Kolkey: 815-987-1374; jkolkey@rrstar.com