Superintendent Steve Williams to Retire
After a career spanning almost four decades, Stephen L. Williams, Superintendent/CEO of the Belmont, Harrison and Noble County Boards of Developmental Disabilities, will retire on December 31, 2023.
Williams, 59, started his career at the Belmont County Board of Developmental Disabilities as a case manager in 1988. He was promoted into various leadership positions until being named Superintendent of the three county boards, known as the BHN Alliance, in 2012.
Williams is the only DD superintendent in Ohio to serve three county boards in that capacity and has guided them through many changes.
“The system of support I started in is vastly different than what it is today, and for all the right reasons,” Williams said. “We moved from being a ‘pilot’ in people’s lives - making decisions for them - to being a ‘navigator’ where we help people get what they want out of life.”
Williams said one of the primary ways of doing this was understanding the lived experiences of people served. Under his leadership, the BHN Alliance embraced Trauma-Informed Care, a compassion-driven approach that emphasizes positive relationships.
“It is about helping people with developmental differences achieve what matters the most to them and making sure each one feels safe, Williams said.
Williams credits people with disabilities as leaders in changes that have moved the system forward.
“Self-advocates have led the way and it has been my honor to support their efforts to improve accessibility and inclusion for all people,” he said.
Since taking the helm as superintendent, Williams oversaw the expansion of early intervention for babies and toddlers and targeted transition activities for students ages 14 and older. He has headed projects to create accessible homes, promoted greater access to jobs for people of all abilities, and strengthened partnerships with other agencies and the public schools.
The retiree credits those around him for successes achieved during his tenure.
“Absolutely nothing could be accomplished without the incredible team across the BHN Alliance,” Williams said. “They strive for excellence and provide the best service to the people we support.”
Williams said there have been challenges over the years with one being particularly difficult – the lack of comprehensive local services for children and youth with multiple mental health and developmental needs.
“We did not have the necessary supports, so we were sending children across the state for specialized treatment, separating them from the people who loved them the most,” Williams said. “We knew that had to change.”
In 2014 the Belmont County Board of Developmental Disabilities and its partners in mental and behavioral health, juvenile court, Job and Family Services and the provider network created Tomorrow’s Youth Project, a holistic approach that includes the youth and their families in the healing process. In-home mental health and behavioral supports, planned respite, targeted activities, and therapeutic mentoring are now offered locally. This strategy of bringing multiple agencies together to serve youth at risk for residential placement was one of the first in Ohio.
Described as a thoughtful leader, Williams has served on state work groups that involved the redesign of adult services and transportation, multi-system youth initiatives, and county board sustainability.
In 2012, the BHN Alliance received the Visionary Leadership Award from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities for pioneering shared administrative services across the three county boards.
Williams, who served on the OACB Board of Trustees as a Superintendent representative, received the Kenneth Legats Visionary Leadership Award in 2018.
As Williams reflected on his career, he said there is only one measure of success for him.
“The work has never been about us, but rather the people we support,” he said. “If they are living their best lives then, and only then, are we successful.”
A smooth transition was assured when the three county boards named Gloria Llewellyn as Superintendent, effective Jan. 1, 2024. Llewellyn has 30 years’ experience in the developmental disabilities field, the last five years with the BHN Alliance as Assistant Superintendent and Transitional Superintendent since January 2023.