Matthew Williams, a native of Cumming, Ga., was selected to replace former Main Street and economic development director Catherine Edgemon, who was terminated Sept. 11 due to losing the confidence of the downtown development authority.
Williams holds two bachelor degrees, in both political science and history, and earned a masters of public administration degree from Auburn University. He honed his skills by interning with his home city, where he “worked with every department of the city and worked with historic preservation and economic development,” he said.
“I've always loved politics and government,” he said, emphasizing that his dream job was to work for a city government such as LaFayette.
“I'm very excited to be here.”
In his new role as Main Street director, Williams will be working actively with the LaFayette Downtown Development Authority and the Historic Preservation Commission, as well as striving to increase tourism in the city.
Williams has already been hard at work bringing the city website and social media pages up to speed, including vast improvements to the official city of LaFayette Facebook page as well as a brand-new Twitter account for the city. He hopes that by disseminating information about local events to the public in a quicker, more modern way, more people will wish to attend, adding more life to the city on days when resident traffic might otherwise be moving toward Fort Oglethorpe or Chattanooga for entertainment.
“One thing I would like is to encourage people to stay here in the city,” he said. “People need to know what's going on.”
Williams hopes to make larger community attractions, such as a fall festival he hopes to establish next year, a staple of the LaFayette yearly calendar. He also wants to make LaFayette more attractive for local businesses, economic development and shopping, in hopes of keeping its residents spending money here as opposed to out-of-county.
“I would love to see bigger businesses and manufacturing,” he said. “I would love to get people to shop in LaFayette, to have new retail stores downtown.”
Williams, 29, is married and has two dogs and two cats. He enjoys spending his free time restoring old cars and taking black-and-white photographs. He has a love of photography, especially of old towns such as LaFayette, and he hopes that local residents will search their attics for interesting old relics to share with the city.
“I would love to see some Civil War-era pictures,” he said, “some of downtown LaFayette.”
“I would love to see any old pictures people have of Chattooga Academy.” Williams will be working out of the old school building behind Joe Stock park, in Edgemon's old office, and noted that he would love to be able to display historic pictures there. “It'd be nice to put them up and just to keep them for posterity, too.”
Williams is intrigued by the history of LaFayette and wants to promote more projects involving “historical redevelopment,” such as the ongoing Mars Theatre district renovation. “It's amazing that there's not a bigger historic preservation around here.”
Williams wants to establish a policy of friendly transparency with the people of LaFayette, and encourages the public to approach him with any questions or concerns. “I want to be very open with people,” he said.
For more information on the ongoing Main Street and economic development initiatives in LaFayette, contact Matthew Williams at 706-639-1519.