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Local Boys and Girls Club CEO elected national chairman

Mark Parker



Freddy Williams (fifth from back left), CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, and local children receive a check from Coke Florida officials at an event in December 2022. Photo by Mark Parker.

In just over 20 years, Freddy Williams went from attending the Boys & Girls Club to leading local affiliates to overseeing a national association with revenues exceeding $2.3 billion annually.

The organization’s governing board recently elected Williams, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, to chair its National Board of Directors. He will continue providing local leadership while serving as a voice for over 60,000 staff members at more than 5,000 locations nationwide.

The Club’s paid employees collectively serve more than two million youth annually.

Over 21,000 children attend the Suncoast affiliate throughout Pinellas County. Williams called his significantly expanded scope “the best of both worlds” and noted local staff, board members, partners and donors made the achievement possible.

“Me being selected as chair is 100% a reflection of our local team,” said Williams. “Our success, my quote-unquote ‘quick success,’ is certainly a reflection of our entire community’s success.”

He gleaned many of his leadership skills while attending the Tampa Boys & Girls Club as a teen. However, Williams said he “absolutely did not” expect to ever preside over a local market, much less the organization’s national network.

Instead, Williams thought he would become a lobbyist. Like many club members, he looked forward to the summer field trips and relayed his dismay when a director told him there would be none one year due to budget cuts.

After a quick civics lesson, Williams told the director that he would one day ensure kids never lost funding. So he became a political science major in college and volunteered at the Gainesville Boys & Girls Club – often providing those same civics lessons to other children.

He then found his true calling and realized he could still serve as a funding advocate for kids.

“While it was a little bit of a twist and turn, it’s very much what I thought I was going to do back then,” Williams said. “I would have never imagined in a million years, though.”

He shot through the organization’s ranks, serving as the Orlando Club’s CEO for three years and the St. Petersburg-based Suncoast affiliate. His peers nominated Williams to join the National Board of Directors in 2019.

While he volunteered for every board committee or task force opening over the last four years, he is still in disbelief over his rapid rise up the organizational chart.

Williams said he would essentially serve as a voice for over 60,000 professionals through a two-year term. His first priority as chairman is ascertaining how best to source, develop and retain “world-class” talent.

“When we have strong leaders, and we develop strong leaders, they, in turn, can develop strong leaders in our youth,” he added. “And when we have strong leaders in our youth, we have stronger communities.”

His other focus area is utilizing technology and data to make better – and faster – decisions. Williams said the timing is right to elevate those two initiatives.

He also plans to bolster fundraising capabilities and youth experiences but said he doesn’t want to “boil the ocean” during his two years at the helm.

Local club members participate in a workforce development program. Photo provided.

Williams explained that his national appointment also benefits the local affiliate. He said it raises the organization’s profile, which is already helping attract new talent. “It’s been a positive unintended consequence, where people want to join our system to learn from our other leaders within our organization,” he added.

While Williams still wonders what influenced the board to elect him, he believes people appreciate his authenticity. Williams also noted that he tries to learn and grow and become the best version of himself daily – something he and his staff try to instill in the kids they serve.

He credits his family’s support for enabling his local success and the ability to take on his new role. Williams said his wife, an attorney by trade, should “be on the payroll.” In addition to her familial responsibilities, he lightheartedly said she also serves as his legal advisor and risk management specialist.

“From time to time, I still need to pinch myself,” Williams said. “Because I wonder how in the world I could be so lucky and blessed to serve in so many capacities in the organization that saved my life as a kid.”

FREDDY WILLIAMS – the SPX Interview. Listen here.







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