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West Valley City Journal

Long-time West Valley City resident Jeanetta Williams carries on as president of local NAACP branch

Aug 11, 2023 11:06AM ● By Darrell Kirby

For 30 years she has been president of the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP. She has been at the forefront of issues affecting the local Black community, from police reforms to educational opportunities available to youth. She has received local and national recognition for her work and has rubbed shoulders with national and world leaders. 

Jeanetta Williams has become synonymous with promoting the cause of and bettering the lives of Black residents and other minority communities in Utah and beyond. 

Williams has done all this while calling West Valley City home since moving to Utah in 1988.

Her journey in civic engagement began in her hometown of the last 35 years when her interactions with city police on different issues led to her appointment to the West Valley City Professional Standards Review Board, a volunteer citizens panel that reviews police-related complaints, use of force occurrences, and vehicle pursuits. Williams served there for 20 years. She has also spent time on several other city committees. 

Fostering relations with the city’s different ethnic communities to instill more harmony and reduce crime has been an emphasis of city government in light of it being one of perhaps the two most diverse in Utah, along with Salt Lake City. Williams feels that relations between police and those communities have improved over the years, as she has tried to get each side to better understand how they view each other and their respective challenges. 

In her role as president of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch, she has reached out to law enforcement in part by recognizing top first responders during the organization’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon. “It has the police officers knowing that everybody’s not out there hating on the police,” Williams said. “We’re saying that we appreciate the work that you’re doing.” 

The Black population of West Valley City stood at 2.5% of the city’s 140,000 residents, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. It was 1.1% in the 2000 Census. Overall, the minority population of West Valley City exceeds the number of white residents. 

“I’ve seen a lot of things that the city is doing to become more inclusive,” she said, pointing to the construction of the Utah Cultural Celebration Center which, as its name implies, hosts a variety of programs and exhibits that highlight the various cultures that exist in West Valley City. Williams spearheaded the effort to name a section of 3100 South near the Cultural Center “Rosa Parks Drive.” 

As for city government itself, “What I’d like to see is more diversity on the city council,” Williams said. Of its seven members, there is one Polynesian, an Asian, and a woman. “A lot of people just don’t want to run,” she admitted.

Still, Williams feels that Utah doesn’t entirely deserve the reputation it has among some from outside the state about its lack of diversity. “It’s gotten a lot better.” 

Despite her long tenure and the controversies and criticisms of her leadership, Williams says she has no immediate plans to step back as president of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch, a position which she has held since January 1993. “As long as I feel that I have the energy and desire to do it, I will continue to do it. I don’t have a cutoff date.” λ