Remembering Bob Williams

By John Hendrickson

This past week we lost a champion of liberty with the passing of Bob Williams. Bob served as a state legislator from Washington and he founded two state policy think tanks, Evergreen Freedom Foundation and the Washington Policy Center. As a lawmaker and as a public policy professional, Bob Williams was a budget hawk and a defender of fiscal conservatism.

Bob also served in leadership roles at State Policy Network (SPN) and at the American Legislative Exchange Council. At ALEC, he helped lead the Center for State Fiscal Reform.  Almost anyone who ever worked with Bob throughout the many stops of his career revered him.

My first encounter with Bob occurred at a national policy conference where he was presenting on state budget reforms.  Specifically, he spoke about priority-based budgeting.  As I was still brand new to the policy world at the time, this was my first introduction to budget policy and I couldn’t have had a more knowledgeable teacher.  Bob sparked an interest in state budgets and fiscal policy that has lasted for the past 16 years.

After the conference, I stayed connected with Bob, and he was always willing to answer my questions and offer help whenever I needed it. He was quick to respond to e-mails and his responses were filled with ideas and resources. Even though I did not know Bob well, his insight and kindness were a profound influence upon me. He was generous with his time, and he always treated people as equals, even if our resumes were anything but equal to his!

Back in 2018, ITR Foundation (we were known as Tax Education Foundation of Iowa at the time) hosted the Midwest Policy Summit, which gathered our public policy peers from neighboring states to discuss ideas on a variety of issues. Bob Williams was one of the key presenters at that conference. During our two-day event, Bob essentially put on a master class about state budget reforms and included specific examples of how priority-based budgeting works.

As an organization, the ideas we gleaned from Bob throughout the years have shaped our approach to public policy solutions.  Concepts that Bob developed and promoted have been woven into significant pro-taxpayer victories in Iowa and across the country. Bob Williams will be missed, but his legacy will not be forgotten.