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Cleveland state Sen. Sandra R. Williams resigns 7 months before end of term

Williams, who is term-limited and can't seek re-election, called her time representing the 21st Senate district 'the best job I've ever had in my entire life.'

COLUMBUS, Ohio — One of Cleveland's most prominent politicians has decided to call it quits before the end of her final term in office.

State Sen. Sandra R. Williams (D-Cleveland) announced on the Senate floor Wednesday she will resign less than seven months before she was originally scheduled to leave. Williams, who is term-limited and cannot seek re-election in the 21st district, will officially step down next week.

"I love this place," Williams said of her time in the General Assembly's upper chamber. "This is the best job I've ever had in my entire life, and I'm really going to miss it."

A Cleveland native, Williams served as a parole officer and U.S. Army reservist before working as a legislative aide under former state Rep. Annie L. Key. In 2006, Williams ran unopposed for her mentor's old seat in the Ohio House and went on to serve four terms there.

During her time in the House, Williams helped pass the "Cleveland Plan" which re-vamped the structure of the city's public school district. Though House Bill 525 was controversial at the time, Williams lauded its effects for "[taking]" the graduation rates from 47% to 87%."

"I was told if I sponsored that bill, they would run somebody against me and they would get me out of the legislature," she noted. "But it really didn't really matter to me, because I would never forsake the children of the city of Cleveland."

Williams did face controversy in 2014 when she was charged with illegal use of campaign funds connected to the purchase of Ohio State football tickets. She pleaded no-contest to two misdemeanor counts and paid a $2,000 fine, but was still soundly elected to the state Senate later that year.

In 2021, Williams announced her candidacy to replace Frank G. Jackson as Mayor of Cleveland. An underdog from the start, she came in sixth in the seven-person primary with 11% of the vote, and went on to endorse eventual winner Justin Bibb in the general election.

Several of Williams' Senate colleagues from both parties paid tribute to her with their own remarks Tuesday, giving her multiple standing ovations in the process. Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) praised Williams for her bipartisanship and her work as a "force" in the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party.

"You did make a difference," Dolan told Williams of her tenure. "I always knew when I came to you I would get a direct and honest response about what you needed from this bill."

So far, five candidates have announced their intentions to run for the newly drawn 21st district, including four Democrats.

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