Experienced city planner to lead SECC as it broadens economic development scope

Wendy Walker Williams, an experienced city planner who has worked on economic development projects on the South Side and throughout Chicago, has been named executive director of the South East Chicago Commission, one of the city's most enduring community organizations. She begins on Monday, March 1.

Williams, a resident of the Grand Boulevard neighborhood, most recently worked as assistant commissioner in the Chicago Department of Community Development. Before that, she served as deputy director at Gallery 37, The Arts Matter, where she was responsible for the financial administration of a $6 million job-training program.

Williams comes to the SECC as the organization broadens its geographic scope and puts new focus on economic development. Founded in 1952 by the University of Chicago, the organization was created to enhance the quality of life in the Hyde Park-South Kenwood area by tracking crime, documenting city ordinance violations, and sharing information of public concern. Recently, the SECC has expanded its efforts to include the Woodlawn and Washington Park neighborhoods.

Williams will work with a newly composed board of community stakeholders, business owners and residents from the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Chicago. Their mission is to identify, initiate and advance a set of common economic and community development priorities that will make these communities even more attractive places for residents to live, learn, work and play.

"The SECC is poised to serve as an ambassador," said Williams. "The Organization also serves as a change agent within the area by bringing together individuals from the community who are dedicated to making these communities safe and prosperous."

Williams succeeds long-time director Bob Mason, who now serves as Public Information Officer for the University of Chicago Police Department. During his 28 years of leadership, the SECC initiated programs such as the troubled-building initiative, a crime scene witness assistance program, a thorough analysis of area crime statistics and a regular inventory of commercial spaces in Hyde Park, monitoring the physical appearance of public spaces.

Shirley Newsome, SECC Board Chairperson, expressed her delight at having Williams aboard. "I am sure that Wendy will bring excitement, energy and expertise to our organization and help it to be a real asset to our communities," Newsome said.