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OU Alum Blazes Trail in Construction Arena

10/15/2020

Bridgette Williams is a trailblazer. Not just in the way she has impacted her industry, but also quite literally in her position as executive director of the Heavy Constructors Association of Greater Kansas City – also known as the “Heavies” in trade circles.

The 70-year-old HCAGKC includes some 150 regional contractors and suppliers involved in constructing public and private infrastructure for roads, highways, bridges, airports and critical utilities. It is affiliated with the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

Williams is the first female and first African-American to lead the HCAGKC, and among the first in the country to head a major contractor’s association. She was elected and served for the 13 years prior to the HCAGKC as president of the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO, again with the distinction of being the first African American and the first female elected to the position in the country.

Williams is a highly respected figure in the region’s construction industry with more than 30 years of experience in the field of transportation, construction and economic development policy. She served as the HCAGKC’s deputy director for seven years before being named to the association’s top leadership role in 2017.

“Being the first African-American and the first woman in the country to lead these organizations is an honor,” Williams said. “But I didn’t get here by myself. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to serve in these roles, and to all of the people who helped along the way, and continue to ride with me on this journey. There have been many obstacles and it has not been easy by any stretch of the imagination, but those obstacles have helped shape me into the smart, strong, woman that I am. For that, I’m full of gratitude.”

The HCAGKC coordinates activities and pools resources to support and identify transportation and infrastructure funding.

The contractors that the Heavy’s represent employ some 36,000 working men and women in the Kansas City metro. These contractors clear the way for commercial buildings, apartment complexes, housing developments, airports, waterways, utilities and road construction. Williams said the work her organization does  has a pervasive effect on people’s lives, something she and her colleagues take very seriously.

“The work we do here impacts each and every person’s quality of life here in the metro,” Williams said. “It’s important work that determines whether or not you have a road to drive on or whether people have clean water, the proper infrastructure for their lights to come on or off , safe bridges to drive on, runways for airplanes to take off and land or hospitals have the proper ventilation systems.”

The 2014 Ottawa University graduate further influences this important work with her service on the board of directors for the Kansas City Area Development Council, as board chairperson of the Economic Development Corporation  of Kansas City, an executive committee member for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and on the  advisory council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
All this experience gives Williams unique insight into contract negotiations, policy development, politics and workplace issues. She also credits OU for the transformative role it had in her life.

“I am a spiritual person by nature, and I trust my ability to discern, it is part of what guides me in leadership,” Williams said. “However, openly integrating Christ as the center of my education was a first-time experience for me, and I have Ottawa University to thank for that experience. I am a better, more patient, and more understanding person because of my time at OU. The breadth of inner perspective that I undertook, in part, surfaced because of the quality of the liberal arts education I received at OU.”

Today, under Williams dutiful leadership, the HCAGKC is at the forefront of transportation, public works, infrastructure issues and campaigns in the Greater Kansas City Area, and in the states of Kansas and Missouri. HCAGKC members have built most of the highways, bridges, streets, dams and clean and wastewater systems on both sides of the state line. The metro’s airports are also on that list, and the HCAGKC and several of its contractors are heavily involved in building the new state-of-the-art KCI terminal and garage.

“The project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it means a lot to our organization, the city and the region,” Williams said. “The new KCI will be every visitors first and last impression of Kansas City, and to say that the HCAGKC was a major part of the project becoming a reality is not only a major achievement, but it will keep our men and women working for years allowing them to not only take care of their families, but to be a part of history.”

The priority of Williams’ association is to do “the heavy lifting” in providing a solid foundation for advancing economic development in the Kansas City metro.

“We have a genuine interest and concern along with the city’s citizens and stakeholders to do what it takes to make Kansas City better,” Williams said. “Economic development in KCMO matters because not only is it the catalyst for job creation, but a necessity to maintain a vibrant, vital, competitive and livable city.”

Williams has participated in numerous negotiations on behalf of both the HCAGKC and the Kansas City AFL-CIO and continues to work extensively on issues related to economic development, transportation, workforce development and labor relations.
 
Her volunteer and philanthropy activities include participation in the 2017 “Dancing with the Kansas City Stars” charity competition to benefit Cristo  Rey Kansas City High School, part of a non-profit network of schools founded in  1996 to prepare youth from low-income families for post-secondary educational opportunities. Williams was one of eight contestants who danced in 2017. The fundraising competition was started  in 2007 with many local dignitaries participating each year.

Williams earned her bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication from Ottawa University in 2014. She also obtained an Executive Masters in Business Administration degree in 2016 from Rockhurst University.  Her honors include being named one of “50 Missourians You Should Know” by Ingram’s Magazine’s, and she was on the Kansas City Business Journal’s “Power 100” first in 2014, and then for three consecutive years in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Also in 2019, Williams was presented the prestigious NAACP Leadership Award. She was honored by Rockhurst University in January 2020 with the Rashford-Lyon Award for Leadership & Ethics, which honors outstanding alumni who distinguish themselves as leaders.

Williams and her husband, Terrance, have four children: three daughters, Terryn, Whitney, Britney; and a son, TJ. They live in Kansas City, Kan.

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About Ottawa University

Founded in 1865, Ottawa University prepares professional and liberal arts graduates for lifetimes of personal significance, vocational fulfillment and service to God and humanity as a Christ-inspired community of grace and opening inquiry. Ottawa University is a comprehensive, not-for-profit educational institution, serving more than 4,000 students through its residential campuses in Ottawa, Kan., and Surprise, Ariz., and adult campuses in Overland Park, Kan.; Phoenix and Queen Creek, Ariz.; Brookfield, Wis.; and online. Visit www.ottawa.edu for more information.

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