News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Unity and infrastructure focus of Micanopy Mayor Jiana Williams's first months in office

As the first Black, female mayor of  Micanopy, Jiana Williams, 37, often thinks about what her late grandmother, Willie Mae Stokes who used to clean houses around the town, would say if she could see her now. 

“I think if she was able to really see me now sitting in that chair, I can't even imagine the emotion and what that would mean for her,” Williams said. “Because she came up in a time where it was not even a possibility to fathom, that wasn't a thought that she would have had.”

Mayor Williams is a lifelong resident of Micanopy, where she was born in 1986. Like her grandmother, Williams also couldn’t fathom becoming mayor.  

Three years before running for mayor of the town, Williams received a Facebook message from one of her neighbors. Her neighbor informed her that she had written Williams’ name down on the ballot. 

The thought of her being mayor sounded crazy to Williams. She replied with a couple of laughing emojis and said the vote should have gone to somebody who was running for mayor. 

“Even in that time, mentally, I don't think I was ready to take action,” Williams said. “However, I was very aware of the changes that I wanted to see.”

Williams said that she needed to ease her husband and four children into the idea of running for mayor before even thinking about doing it. 

Despite just recently becoming mayor, serving the community of Micanopy has been no stranger to her. Williams grew up surrounded by multiple examples of community service.

“My grandmother always instilled a spirit of just community over self,” Williams said. 

During Thanksgiving of 2000, Williams’ late grandmother, Willie Mae Stokes, had the idea of forgoing the family’s Thanksgiving dinner and instead giving free meals to individuals in the community. Williams was in the ninth grade and recalls this moment as one that resonated with her. 

“I think that may have really been the start of me seeing the importance of serving others because I wholeheartedly feel that you do get your blessings in that way,” Williams said. 

Although Williams lived in Micanopy growing up, she didn’t go to school in the town. Micanopy Academy and Micanopy Area Cooperative School, the two schools in town, didn’t exist when she went through school. Instead, she went to school in east Gainesville.

She attended Prairie View Elementary, Lincoln Middle School and Eastside High School. During her years as a student, Williams spent August through November playing the trombone in the marching band and November through January, playing basketball as a point guard and shooting guard. 

“Athletics. Music. My mom made me stay active, and I owe her a million thank-yous,” Williams said. “Because if it wasn’t for that push from her, I also wouldn’t be who I am today.”

One of Williams’ fondest memories growing up in Micanopy was attending the town’s annual Fall Festival. She said she enjoys seeing the community gathered and lined up in Main Street, the smell in the air, and being with her family marking the start of the Fall season. 

Serving the community continued to be a big part of her life during her career before entering the political arena. Williams had worked in different positions doing social services. 

One of these jobs was at the Florida Department of Children and Families where she worked at the North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center as a unit treatment and rehab specialist.

Williams was responsible for helping restore the competency of clients who were deemed guilty by reason of insanity. She said that seeing clients coming in off their medication and completely “aloof” to their situation, to then seeing them get healthier and able to speak for themselves was rewarding. 

Later, she also worked at Micanopy Academy, a charter middle and high school, where she served as an administrative assistant and a physical education coach. 

“Youth is where I feel the absolute most comfortable, I love dealing with 12-to-18-year-old students,” Williams said. “That is such a defining age where you are really trying to find out who you are.” 

During her time working in the middle school, Williams was able to also start a new basketball team at the school. She said that she had spent an entire season teaching students the fundamentals. 

“(I was) just connecting the dots, and I went from one job to the next,’ Williams said. “And then now, I'm able to pull all those experiences together each time I walk into the chambers. Each time I meet a neighbor out, I'm able to take those experiences and mold how I deal with individuals.” 

The defining moment that helped her in deciding to run for mayor of the town was when she became a part of the Alachua County Community Remembrance Project (ACCRP). The goal of the project is to bring attention to racial atrocities that happened in history during the Jim Crow era.

She and members of the project wanted to collect soil from Micanopy. But the Micanopy Town Commission, at the time, was the only one among neighboring cities that refused to permit the collection of soil, Williams said.  

“This group was making an effort to bring attention to racial terrorism through a respectful manner. And we were basically being stonewalled,” Williams said. “And it was at that moment, not because of my race, but because of the importance of history and representation and being able to have a town that's reflective of everyone that lives in it, it was during those months that I decided, OK, this is time.” 

In 2022, Williams became a town commissioner, and in March of this year, she was elected as mayor. 

“She cares, she writes down everything. She's just a good politician…and not for the wrong reasons, but for the right reasons,” town commissioner Judy Galloway said. “She's the kind of person we need in politics; she cares about people, no matter who you are or what you are. And that's what it's all about.”

Williams's proudest moment as mayor so far has been when she signed the proclamation recognizing the month of June as Pride Month in Micanopy for the first time.

While Williams was running for mayor, Commissioner Mike Roberts allegedly made “very disparaging comments towards LGBTQ+ community,” Williams said. At the time, she was a commissioner, and she said she felt as though as a commission, they didn’t handle the situation with grace and dignity.

In June, as mayor, she wanted to take the opportunity to recognize the diversity that exists in the town. 

“She works really well with everybody,” Linda Van Leer, 82, said. “The commission is just working so well together…it’s exciting because we’ve seen it not working really well in the past, for different reasons.” 

Van Leer regularly attends town meetings. She said Williams brought a guest speaker from a housing agency to talk about a grant that could help residents lower their cost of rent. On another occasion, Van Leer said Williams brought a program to Micanopy that would help diminish mosquitoes in the town’s ballpark. 

“This is how Jiana is, she kind of looks out for everyone,” Van Leer said. 

During the past seven months as mayor, Williams has made it a priority to continue interacting with residents of Micanopy and “restore trust” among them. She said it is something easy to do because of all the things she did before becoming a commissioner. 

“Mayor Williams has unequivocally been one of the best assets to Micanopy, she is kind she is caring, she is efficient, and very in tune with the needs of the people and the merchant community of Micanopy,” said Monica Beth Fowler resident of Micanopy and owner of Delectable Collectibles.

Now Williams is working with the town commission on the town’s infrastructure, water and broadband. She said these are “issues that have to be dealt with immediately.” In addition, she sees that there is a need for more resources. The town lacks convenience stores, a doctor’s office and more, and residents have to constantly go to Gainesville or Marion County for essential items and care.  

“There is a conversation to be had…you don't want to make this a big-city town, you don't want to change the aesthetic of it, but you do want to be able to provide the basic necessities for those that are living here,” Williams said.  

Williams said there has been much progress, but the goal is to not become stagnant.

Jimena is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing