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NEW @ THE ACADEMY

Meet our Fellows: David C. Williams (‘19)

David C. Williams’ appointment to the Postal Service Board of Governors by President Donald Trump was confirmed by the Senate in August of 2018. Williams, a native of Illinois, served on the Board of Governors until the end of April 2020.

Williams retired from the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (IG) in 2016. He had served as IG since August 20, 2003, and was responsible for a staff of more than 1,125 employees. Since March of 2016, he has been a Distinguished Visiting Professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

In July 2011, Williams was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as vice chairman of the Government Accountability and Transparency Board. He also served as the deputy assistant administrator for Aviation Operations at the Transportation Security Administration from August 2002 until August 2003, where he managed the Aviation Inspection Program at federalized airports.

Williams has served as IG for five federal agencies. He was first appointed by President George H.W. Bush to serve as IG for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1989 to 1996. In 1999, President Clinton named him as the first IG for Tax Administration of the Department of Treasury, where he directed a staff of 1,050 to detect fraud, waste and abuse. In 2001, President George W. Bush named Williams the acting IG for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, while he was also serving at the Department of the Treasury.

A U.S. Army veteran, Williams is the recipient of the Bronze Star and the Vietnamese Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam. He began his civilian federal career as a special agent with the U.S. Secret Service. Moving up the career ladder, he served as Director of Operations in the Office of Labor Racketeering at the Department of Labor; supervisory staff investigator for the President’s Commission on Organized Crime; and as Director of the Office of Special Investigations at the U.S. General Accounting Office.

Williams graduated from Southern Illinois University and received a master’s degree in education from the University of Illinois. He also attended the U.S. Military Intelligence Academy, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and the U.S. Secret Service Training Academy.

Here is a recent interview with Mr. David Williams:

  1. How did you get involved in public service?

Actually, it was not I who took an interest in public service, rather public service took an interest in me-the Army called. Then, after serving with the American Infantry Division in Vietnam, I was temporarily ruined for most normal activities-as a result of an acquired adrenalin addiction-so…I went into the Secret Service. This was my great and fortunate introduction to civilian public service.

  1. Which of the Academy’s 12 Grand Challenges resonates most with you?

I am intrigued by the challenge dealing with connecting individuals to meaningful work in a changing age. The new technologies of the century are being combined and configured into startling and disruptive innovations that the world is seeing for the first time-and there are a lot of them.

I do like the timing of it all, since I was just starting to get really sick of traditional workplaces and command-control bureaucracies. There has to be something more worthwhile to do than this every day.

After escaping a lifetime of cube farms, it will take a while for us all to adjust to being out of our cages and into the wild. Then we just have to find our place in this bizarre arena now suddenly crowded with foreign speakers, robots and talking devices. Lastly, we have to come to understand that we are not merely outmoded data processers, but that we have to master new skills to prepare us to handle our new roles and interdependencies. As a lifelong investigator, who practically began my career investigating stage coach robberies and concluded it in pursuit of thugs through cyberspace seizing their bitcoins, I am still reeling a bit from the journey. 

  1. Reflecting on your career thus far, is there a highlight, a greatest accomplishment or a funny story you’d like to share?

I’ve loved nearly every day, and throttling back to my current reduced involvement has been a scary thing for me. So, a highlight would be challenging. In Vietnam our camp was attacked and the enemy got inside the wire with us…the night I arrived from the U.S. With GAO I led a group that reviewed the Marine Security Guard espionage investigation, the deadly explosion aboard the USS Iowa and the Iran-Contra Affair. I conducted several Teamster organized crime cases, including the investigation of the union’s International President. I did extensive undercover work on a huge financial sting operation in Chicago with the Secret Service and I have loved the huge complex fraud cases with the Inspectors General. It’s hard to pick.

But as I look at the second choice you have given me-a funny story-I remember an incident that occurred while I was leading a team investigating the President of International Brotherhood of Teamsters.  We’d been unsuccessful at serving a subpoena, concerning mobsters on his payroll, and decided to follow the Teamster President out to his Convention in Las Vegas.  Following his address to the union’s 21/2 million members, he stepped off the stage and left the auditorium. At one end of the hall one of our team held up his badge in one hand and a folded piece of paper in the other.  The President did a one-eighty and fled as his guards came forward to delay us and cover his retreat. That caused him to run into our other investigator who actually had the subpoena which he slipped into the pocket of the President and told him that he was served.

The Teamsters were powerful and connected and our suspect had just served on the White House transition team.  In the week following the incident, I received angry complaints from both the Secretary of my Department and the White House.  I don’t know if you’ve ever received either of those, but OMG! Everybody was later indicted and convicted; well I mean the suspects-not my team, so we were off the hook a bit.

  1. What advice would you give someone wanting to start a career in public service?

This one is so easy. Forget getting ahead in your organization’s bureaucracy and fall in love with your profession. You will rise faster and you will be respected…and nothing is better than that.

  1. What was the best trip you’ve ever taken?

I travel a lot and I’ve been to great places -Europe, the great fresh open spaces of Africa and I very much liked the Middle East-Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Iran and the magic spell of Jerusalem. But, returning to Vietnam 50 years to the day of my arrival as a 20-year-old might take this prize. I lost friends there and still hold them in my heart-frozen in my mind forever as teenagers. Having said that, I was greatly moved by the amazing resiliency of the Vietnamese people and the startling realization that there genuinely was no hard feelings from the war, only a world of hope and mutual opportunity. I can’t remember any trip where I felt so alive.

  1. What was the last book you read or one that you would recommend?

You have to read Whiplash by Joi Eto and Jeff Howe-the boys from MIT. It’s about the startling new forces driving change and evolutionary human behaviors in our still pretty new Century. These new forces are redefining what it means to be a Sapien.

  1. Do you have a favorite podcast, journal, newspaper, or other kind of media?

Well, the Economist and Fortune periodicals follow closely behind Last Week Tonight with John Oliver as my most important news and analysis sources.

  1. What do you work toward in your free time?

Understanding the possibilities of the coming office-less distributed workforce and its meaning for manufacturing and work life. There are also some pretty breath-taking implications for supporting our individual endeavors and bringing about a rural renaissance in America.

Also I like Antiques. They remind me of how quaint and comical the things we obsess over today we will all seem tomorrow.

Lastly, I like to bike so that I can simply stop thinking. It forces me to concentrate on not going over the handle bar so often. I like focusing on this more honest endeavor, rather than pretending to understand the vast implications of Digital and Globalist events exploding around us.

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