Name as it appears on the ballot: Marshall Williams Jr. 

Age: 35

Party affiliation: Democrat

Campaign website:

Occupation & employer: IT Sales Leader : Cisco
Current Mayoral appointee to Workforce Economic development Board and as well as the Durham Preservation Board. 

Years lived in Durham: 28

1) Please identify the three most pressing issues you believe Durham faces and how you believe the city should address them.

The three most pressing issues facing Durham are gun violence, housing affordability, and economic development. As Mayor, I will pursue collaborative solutions to curb violence through investments in youth programs and police-community trust building. I will expand affordable housing options and tenant protections to prevent displacement. And I will foster an economy offering opportunity to all through skills training, minority business support and strategic partnerships. Tackling these challenges demands proven, unifying leadership.

2) What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of the city council and as an advocate for the issues that you believe are important?

My service on Durham’s Workforce Development Board and Historic Preservation Commission has provided invaluable insights into the issues facing our city. In these roles and as a community leader, I have built constructive relationships across city government centered on delivering results for Durhamites. My leadership experience spanning athletics, technology, healthcare and education has honed my ability to bring people together around a common purpose. As Mayor, I will leverage this diverse record of unification to overcome divisions and enact solutions making a difference in people’s lives. What matters most is a track record of uplifting underserved communities. I am ready to lead our city forward.

3) What’s the best or most important thing the city council has done in the past year? Alternatively, name a decision you believe the council got wrong or an issue you believe the city should have handled differently. Please explain your answer.

The City Council’s recent consideration of the SCAD zoning amendments missed a vital opportunity for thoughtful engagement with the community. While seeking public input is admirable, the process failed to fully understand resident sentiments or build trust and leverage for equitable solutions.

At the latest council meeting, many citizens expressed sincere worries that SCAD’s regulatory changes could accelerate gentrification and displacement. Rather than deeply consider these concerns, the discussion pivoted too quickly to a political vote.

With complex issues like SCAD, good process is critical. Efforts to find common ground cannot start the day of a charged hearing. As Mayor, I would lay the groundwork through ongoing dialogue, balanced partnerships and creative problem-solving. There are always win-win solutions if we listen first and lead inclusively.

While well-intended, SCAD’s rollout has divided our city. As we tackle housing affordability, we must bring people together, not drive them apart. I have the patience and unifying vision to mend fences and identify solutions that work for all Durhamites. But we must start with rebuilding trust, not just soliciting feedback. I’m committed to that difficult work.

4) The city has seen an uptick in shootings since last year, including recent tragic homicides that claimed the lives of children. Gun violence is obviously a multifaceted problem with no simple solution at the local level. But, in your view, what can or should the city be doing to stem the tide of violence that it isn’t doing now?

Gun violence spiked dramatically in Durham in 2020, disproportionately impacting young Black males despite not reflecting the city’s demographics. As a native with deep community ties and diverse experiences, I am committed to addressing this crisis.

My time as a Behavior Support Specialist and NFL football player gave me firsthand insight into the importance of proper guidance and support tailored to young people’s needs.

The solution requires more than just removing guns – we must replace them with meaningful opportunities and direction through cross-sector partnerships. 

As Mayor, I will direct investment into youth programs, mental health resources, and community centers.But partnerships between law enforcement and communities impacted by violence are also vital.

I will work tirelessly to bridge divides as Mayor, fostering dynamic policing focused on proactive relationship building and consensus, not just reactive responses. Restoring trust is crucial.

Gun violence stems from lack of equitable access and support, not deficiencies in our youth. By providing tools and outlets all young people deserve, we can empower them to thrive and make positive impacts. Their future, and our city’s, hangs in the balance.

With collaborative solutions centered on uplifting our most marginalized, we can curb violence and make Durham a city united around hope and opportunity.

5) What can or should the city be doing to support people who are not in control of their own housing (including renters, the unhoused, and those whose homes are owned by banks) as costs of living skyrocket?

With housing costs skyrocketing, the city must act urgently to support vulnerable residents through creative solutions like:

  • Converting short-term rentals to long-term leases by regulating Airbnbs and other platforms, following models like New York City’s ban on renting full apartment units for less than 30 days. This can rapidly boost housing supply using existing units.
  • Increasing affordable housing production, including for-sale units to build resident equity. Expedited permitting and public-private partnerships can add stock quickly.
  • Providing relief stipends using federal recovery funds to help cost-burdened renters making up nearly 50% of our residents. Rental assistance programs are also vital.
  • Ensuring affordable housing in every neighborhood, so vital workers can stay in their communities. Teachers, healthcare workers and first responders will be priced out without urgent action.
  • Securing state and federal resources to scale non-profit acquisition of existing properties and convert them to permanently affordable housing.

With compassionate, creative leadership, we can house our most vulnerable residents and restore economic diversity. As Mayor, I will bring urgency, tenacity and inclusivity to implementing win-win solutions like converting short-term rentals to long-term homes. Durham demands and deserves no less.

6) Describe your vision for sustainable growth and development in Durham, including your view of how Expanding Housing Choices has impacted Durham’s communities and built environment since the policy’s passage in 2019; your thoughts on SCAD and the extent to which developers should be involved in shaping the city’s zoning codes; and an example of a municipality you believe has made smart decisions related to growth and development that could be similarly implemented in Durham.

Durham requires balanced, equitable growth that expands housing choice, promotes affordability, and preserves neighborhood culture. Initiatives like Expanding Housing Choices have had positive impacts, enabling more missing middle housing that widens options. But more work remains.

Developers have an important perspective, but cannot alone shape zoning. Community voice matters most. SCAD makes admirable attempts at reform but overlooked genuine concerns. As Mayor, I will forge progress through broad, transparent engagement that builds trust.

Minneapolis provides a model, eliminating single-family zoning to permit diverse housing types citywide. But change resulted from extensive consultation, not just policy decrees. We need a housing vision co-created with residents, framing growth as sustainable, not disruptive.

New housing forms can weave into Durham’s fabric when introduced inclusively. Good growth allows long-time residents to stay and welcomes newcomers. But it must retain affordability, greenspace and neighborhood identity.

With purposeful leadership, we can write Durham’s next chapter together. One encompassing affordable starter homes to vibrant downtowns linked by transit; shaded neighborhoods and lively innovation hubs. The solutions lie in all of us. By tapping into shared hopes, we will create a Durham for all.

7) In August, the city released a report showing lead-contaminated soil in several parks in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods in Durham. What can or should the city be doing to address existing environmental injustices and prevent further environmental racism as Durham expands?

The recent report revealing lead contamination in parks serving predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods highlights troubling environmental justice gaps. As a lifelong Durham resident, I have seen firsthand how racial inequities persist despite diverse leadership.

The root issue is lack of accountability in maintaining vital city infrastructure. As Durham expands, we have failed to equip our core services and facilities for growth. The result – critical needs in underserved communities go unaddressed.

As Mayor, I will not accept this status quo. To confront environmental racism, we need transparency about disparities, inclusion in decision-making, and targeted investments where needs are greatest. I will focus on enhancing accountability through better goal-setting, performance management and community engagement.

All our residents deserve a safe, nurturing environment where kids can play without risk of lead exposure or other hazards. We cannot become a world-class city that leaves neighborhoods behind. With purposeful leadership, we can grow sustainably and equitably. Our mandate is to uplift all people and places.

8) What are the city’s most pressing transit needs?

Durham’s most pressing transit needs are modernization and multi-modal investment. With limited rail currently, we must build connected bike, bus, and pedestrian networks accessible to all neighborhoods. Dedicated bus lanes, circulator routes, and pedestrian infrastructure in our 30% of roads lacking sidewalks are urgently required. A light rail system can also provide sustainable mobility, reducing emissions. As Mayor, I will deliver a transit vision meeting growth demands while uplifting underserved communities.

9) What can or should the city be doing to uplift low-wage workers? To uplift small businesses?

To support low-wage workers amid rising costs, the city should proactively consider compensation increases and benefits enhancements. Inflation requires dynamic solutions like working with city managers on strategies for targeted raises within budget confines. Federal funds available to address national economic challenges must also be strategically leveraged to maximize impact for Durham residents. For small businesses, I will ease regulatory burdens and provide direct technical assistance to nurture their growth. But workers come first. No one working full-time should struggle to make ends meet.

10) How do you currently, or how do you plan to, engage with constituents across all of Durham’s demographics? Building on that response, how do you currently, or how do you plan to, weigh differing insights from constituents, fellow council members, city staff, and advisory committees when coming to a decision on a vote?

My diverse experience building bridges and finding common ground will enable me to lead inclusively across Durham’s demographics as Mayor. While weighing issues, I solicit varied insights but stay firmly rooted in community needs. My NFL career instilled performance-driven principles and tireless work ethic that I will bring to the Mayor’s office. Though leadership starts from within, I’ll also collaborate broadly to deliver results. Ultimately, I believe in bringing people together through principled, compassionate, people-focused leadership that lifts up our most vulnerable residents.

11) How should Durham’s city council address first responder vacancies? 

First responder shortages require comprehensive solutions addressing compensation, morale and community relationships. As Mayor, I will work to enhance pay and benefits where possible within budget constraints. But money alone is insufficient. We need leadership re-establishing trust and unity between police, fire, EMS and the people they serve. My experience as an NFL athlete and youth mentor have prepared me well to bridge divides. I will bring together residents and first responders to forge solutions benefitting all Durhamites.

12) If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here. 

Durham faces unprecedented challenges requiring a unifying figure who can bridge generational, political and ideological divides. My life experience engaging with diverse factions has prepared me well to be that leader.

I have built relationships across the entire spectrum – from boardrooms to locker rooms, classrooms and neighborhoods. This equips me with the community ties and balanced perspective needed to make decisions in the public’s interest, rising above factionalism.

As Mayor, I will break down silos and bring people together. Our shared future cannot be realized when communities are splintered apart. Though passions may run high, there is common ground to be found. With purpose and perseverance, we can write the next chapter together.

I ask for your support so I may have the honor of serving this city that made me who I am. Let’s move forward in unity, upholding Durham values. The challenges are great, but so is the promise of what we can accomplish united. Our finest days are ahead.

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