Former Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams, a longtime public servant, has died

Nov 15, 2023, 10:44 AM | Updated: 11:17 am

Headshot of Former Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams, who died Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, after battling c...

Former Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams died Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, after battling cancer. She was 82. (City of Phoenix Photo)

(City of Phoenix Photo)

PHOENIX – Thelda Williams, a longtime public servant and former mayor of Phoenix, died Tuesday night after a battle with cancer, the city announced. She was 82.

“Thelda Williams’s service to our city has touched and improved the lives of everyone who lives here — from improving Sky Harbor International Airport to strengthening our transit system to making sure that we use our water wisely,” Mayor Kate Gallego said in a press release.

“She cared deeply about Phoenix’s people and its future, and her legacy will endure far beyond our lifetimes. We mourn her loss, and her large city family extends our heartfelt condolences to her family who she treasured so much.”

Flags will be lowered to half-staff at city buildings in tribute to Williams through Tuesday.

Thelda Williams has long history serving city of Phoenix

Williams represented District 1 on the Phoenix City Council for a total of 20 nonconsecutive years, starting in 1989. Her council career concluded in 2021, when she retired after completing her final term in office.

“She will be deeply missed and leaves behind a pair of shoes that will be impossible to fill,” Councilwoman Ann O’Brien, who succeeded Williams, said in the release. “District 1 and all of Phoenix saw exponential growth under Thelda’s leadership. We would not be where we are today as a city if it weren’t for Thelda’s service.

Williams was elevated to the role of interim mayor three times.

Her last stint as mayor filled the gap between Greg Stanton’s departure to run for Congress in 2018 and Gallego’s special election victory.

Previously, she stepped up after the resignations of Paul Johnson and Terry Goddard.

Former councilwoman played key role in transportation planning

Williams spent time as chair of the City Council’s Transportation Infrastructure and Planning Subcommittee and as chair of the Valley Metro Rail board.

Earlier this year, the city recognized Williams’ contributions by naming the new Metrocenter transit center after her. Downtown Phoenix’s first dog park also bears her name.

“I am deeply saddened about her passing, as she impacted so many lives, as well as my own,” Councilwoman Debra Stark said in a press release. “She was an ally on the council, but also a force to be reckoned with. I take solace in knowing she lived a full and accomplished life. We owe a debt of gratitude to Thelda for her many years of public service and contributions to the city of Phoenix.”

Williams is survived by a son and daughter and three grandsons. She was preceded in death by her husband Mel, a former city police officer, and a daughter.

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Former Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams, a longtime public servant, has died