Meet Dr. Katara A. Williams, the first Black female in Louisiana’s history to be named the Executive Director for Highway Safety and now the Chief of Staff for Southern University Staff.

Dr. Williams was appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards in August 2016 to take charge of a $34M dollar annual budget to support highway safety programs in the State. Before being appointed to this position she was the Associate Commissioner of Public Affairs for the LA Board of Regents and then State of Louisiana. 

In the process of creating this spotlight we had to do some serious tracking on Doc to complete, she’s also a mother and a serious jet-setter. We applaud her for juggling so many jobs with so much finesse! And if that wasn’t enough to wow you, just this week she was named the new Chief of Staff for Southern University! #YouGoGirl 

M: What college/university did you attend?

Dr.K:  I am a three time graduate from Southern University and A&M College Baton Rouge.  BA in Mass Communications, MA in Public Relations and a Ph.D. in Public Policy.For me, education has always been my passion and communications was one of my strongest skill sets.  In my professional journey I always made career selections based on those two characteristics.  I also made sure that with each stop along my path, I would learn as much as I could and leave better than when I arrived.

M: Sounds like you’re always aiming hire, that’s quite admirable! Have you had time to participate in organizations, on boards or other activities?

Dr.K: I am a member of:

YMCA Board of Directors- Baranco Clark

SU Alumni Federation

SU Alumni Baton Rouge Chapter

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Jack and Jill of America – Baton Rouge Chapter

Higher Education Leadership Foundation

Governor’s Highway Safety Associations the Governor’s Representative for the State of Louisiana

 

M:What are some tough lessons you’ve learned along the way?

Dr.K:

1. Submit to His Plan for your life…It’s always better than Ours

I am one who always has a plan. For everything. But along this journey called life, often times what we have planned for our life may not happen when and how we want it.  It wasn’t until I learned to trust and yield to God’s plan that it was revealed that His plan is always better than ours.

2. Don’t’ let disappointments get you out of the game!

There will be rejections, challenges and conflict along everyone’s personal and professional journey, but they don’t last forever.  Press through it and persevere regardless of whether you win our lose.  Nothing happens haphazardly so chalk your losses up as a life lesson and use it to GROW!

3. You really MUST go high because they WILL go low

Along the way you will encounter people who may not have your best interest at heart, and often times it is a human tendency that when criticized or insulted, we are tempted to do the same thing in return.  Don’t allow anyone to throw you off course or compromise who you are by lowering yourselves to their level.  Do what’s right and fly above at all times. The righteous will never be forsaken.

M: What keeps you motivated?:
Dr. K: Statistics show that the African American and Hispanic demographics are the two lowest seatbelt users in our State.  Implementing programs which prompt positive change in behavior for these populations and seeing human lives that were saved due to the utilization of best safety practices behind the wheel keeps me vested and motivated to continue this work every day.
M: What is your favorite part of your job?
Dr. K: I have been an educator and PR pro for more than 17 years so being able to utilize my skill set to engage with young audiences to candidly speak about the risks associated with drinking and driving, texting and driving, and impaired drugged diving is important to me.  These types of engagement usually prompt me to bring them into my Highway safety platform, utilizing them as Louisiana youth ambassadors for roadway safety.

M: What would you like to share with young black professionals trying to make their way up the ladder?

Dr.K:  Always maintain a strong sense of self! 

Know your core values and stick to them.  Every professional at some point and time will be faced with challenges and/or compromising situations where your moral compass is conflicted by what you are being asked or required to do as a part of your job.  Through these challenging situations, you must maintain a sense of self and the qualities that define you as an individual.

For me, during those times, I stood firmly on the fundamental principles of integrity, humility, character, and most importantly my faith.  I encourage all young professionals to give serious thought to defining your own individual core values – what you believe in and what you stand for- and do not waiver no matter the circumstance.  These values will serve you well throughout life both personally and professionally.

Started K-Day partying with a purpose! Spent the morning with the Garland Home children who welcomed us with open arms! #jamaica2017 #givingback #schoolsupplydelivery #K’sKids

A note from Dr. Williams: It has been a great ride serving as Louisiana’s youngest and first African American highway safety chief for the state of Louisiana. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful Louisianians who are vested in this work and who truly care about the safety on our roadways. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with an amazing Commission and team who, together, have helped make history in this state by an unprecedented increase in seat belt use, including a record number of African Americans to Buckling Up! I’m equally as proud of the new innovative programs and partners that we’ve encountered along my professional journey . I am so grateful to have been a vessel and voice to promote safety by changing behaviors across this state ultimately to save lives. As I bring this chapter to a close I will now turn the page to begin a new story that is more closely aligned with my passion for higher ed, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank each of you for your prayers and support since my appointment in 2016. I’m excited to continue serving this state through education and thrilled to return in a professional capacity to a place that has impacted me personally and served as the gateway to opportunity for so many others- the Southern System. I look forward to being apart of a team that will open doors for current and aspiring students, and the opportunity to make an even greater impact in the lives of others through education. I believe that God always puts us exactly where we need to be- at exactly the right time..so I excitedly embrace this very intentional phase in my career trajectory with confidence. that it will directly align me to His divine purpose and plan.

We look forward to seeing what she has planned in her next chapter!