After 44 years of service to Louisville, Bill Summers is retiring [Opinion: The Arena]

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Bill Summers is retiring...

William Summers IV, who has served top leadership roles in Louisville city government over four decades and is currently Chief Administrative Officer overseeing all aspects of public safety, announced today that he will retire, effective March 1.  “It has been an honor to serve my hometown, a community that I care for deeply,” Summers said. “The past four decades have seen significant progress, advancements in all areas of Louisville, and I was fortunate to be involved in many of them.”

City Hall2_1.jpgSummer said his final project is assisting Mayor Greg Fischer with the selection of a new police chief, noting that process marked a natural ending to his city career.  Mayor Fischer announced that Ish Burks, interim police chief, will become interim Chief Administrative Officer once a new chief is named.  “Ish has done a fantastic job as interim police chief,” Fischer said. “My team and I look forward to further working with his impressive leadership and administrative skills.”

Fischer also announced today that he will appoint Summers to an open seat on the bi-state Bridges Authority, which is overseeing the development of a financing plan for the Ohio River Bridges Project. Summers replaces Joe Reagan, the former president of Greater Louisville Inc, the metro chamber of commerce, who recently took another job in St. Louis.

“Bill may be retiring from the daily work of government, but his desire to continue to serve our region on the Bridges Authority is a show of citizenship from which we can all learn,” Fischer said.

Summers has devoted much of his life to making Louisville a more vibrant city

Bill Summers 4 RADIO NOW.jpg“His deep knowledge of government and his roots in the community were critical in the first year of my administration,” Fischer said. “Bill has been a mentor and role model to me and to many others, especially young African-Americans. Our city is grateful for his wise and compassionate leadership and service, and I deeply appreciate his willingness to stay beyond his original retirement plans of a year ago.”

Summers first job in city government was in 1968 as an administrative assistant for Mayor Frank Burke, supervising day-to-day operations, including being a liaison with the former Board of Aldermen.

He was director of the city sanitation department for three years and in 1985 was tapped by newly-elected Mayor Jerry Abramson to become a deputy mayor, a role he served from 1985 to 1999 and again after city-county merger, from 2003 until 2010. Summers had planned to retire in 2010, but newly-elected Mayor Fischer convinced him to stay with city government, to assist with the transition.

Summers was named Chief Administrative Officer in January 2011, overseeing agencies including Police, Fire, Emergency Management Services, Emergency Management Agency and Public Works.

city seal metro.jpgHe has been active in Louisville’s business community, serving as executive vice president of GLI from 1999 to 2003. He was also owner and president of Property Maintenance & Management Company and was operations manager and talk show host at WLOU-AM, a station founded by his father, William Summers III.

A graduate of Central High School, Summers studied Political Science and Communications at Kentucky State University.  He is honorably discharged from the United States Army and was a member of the Kentucky National Guard. He has been involved in numerous civic organizations, from Actors Theatre to West Louisville Jaycees and served as chair of the Kentucky Derby Festival. Summers also was active in the successful campaign to merge city and county governments and for much of his career with city government was the highest-ranking African-American leader.

Summers is an avid UK Wildcat fan and said he looks forward to attending more basketball games and spending time with his children and grandchildren.

Bill Summers 3 KCHR.jpgBill inherited much of his leadership ability and dedication to public service from his father, the late Rev. Dr. William E. Summers III (1918 - 1996).  The elder Summers, a noted broadcast journalist, made history in 1967 as the first African-American in the United States to manage a radio station. In 1971, he became the first African-American radio station owner in the state of Kentucky when he purchased WLOU.  When he wasn’t busy running WLOU, he found the time to become ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and pastored several churches in the Louisville area.

A public reception in honor of Bill Summers is being planned for the rotunda of Metro Hall. Details will be announced later.

“Bill Summers defines the term, public servant,” said Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, the former Louisville mayor for whom Summers served as deputy mayor for 21 years. “For more than four decades, he has been a skilled leader, a thoughtful advisor and a true conscience for mayor after mayor. No one has shown more dedication to improving his hometown than William Summers IV.”

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I have known Bill Summers personally, since we worked together in the administration of Mayor Frank Burke, in the early 1970s.  We have been neighbors (he lives just around the corner from me) for more than 30 years.  One of the great advantages of living near the Deputy Mayor is that, during snow emergencies, our street is one of the first in the city to get plowed, to enable Bill to get downtown to the emergency command center at City Hall.  We are all fortunate that Bill chose to share his talents with city government all these years.

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About Thomas McAdam
At various times I have been a student, a soldier, a college Political Science teacher, a political campaign treasurer, and legal adviser to Louisville's Police Department and Board of Aldermen. I now practice law and share my political opinions with anyone who will listen.
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