Colorado Secretary of State Wayne William often tells the story of how there was no high school graduating class of 1959 in the Virginia town where he got his political start. That’s because elected officials closed it rather than integrate it.
Williams on Wednesday night returns to the Shenandoah Valley as the keynote speaker for the Warren County Lincoln Day Dinner. He is fitting in the speaking engagement while attending the National Association of Secretaries of State.
He learned the town’s history when he moved to Front Royal, where he was elected student body vice president the spring after he arrived and student body president a year later. The Warren County High School yearbook features a picture of Williams, who graduated in 1981, wearing a Reagan/Bush button.
Williams last month brought up Warren County, Va., when he spoke to the Lincoln Club of Denver.
He said the county was dominated by Democrats and hadn’t made a lot of progress, although it had since allowed minorities to attend public schools. He volunteered for Republicans running for county supervisor.
“I helped organize about 70 kids and we stood outside of every polling place on Election Day and passed out literature. Most of us couldn’t vote — we weren’t old enough,” Williams recalled. “But we changed that county.”
Williams success in GOP politics continued. He was elected chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party six years after moving to Colorado Springs. In his first race for county commissioner, conventional wisdom said he would get trounced in the primary. Williams served two terms on the commission, and then one term as El Paso County clerk and recorder before Coloradans elected him secretary of state in 2014.
Williams talked to the Warren Sentinel about his political journey and why he brings up his high school experiences.
“I use that as secretary of state, talking about how important it is to be involved and how you can make a difference, because we were a bunch of kids and we helped to change county government without even having the ability to vote,” he said.