Thea Johnson William’s morning commute may look similar to millions of other people’s, but it ends at one of the most recognizable places in the world – the White House.
Williams, a Hahnville native, currently serves as the deputy director of Legislative Affair at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In this role she is responsible for the office’s legislative strategies that support the benefits of science and technology to advance energy securities, environmental quality, and public health.
She said the job is two things – both a dream and a product of a lot of hard work.
Williams joined the Executive Office of the President after serving in several senior level positions in the environmental arena. These roles included congressional liaison on environmental research and science policy, special assistant to the deputy director of the National Superfund Program, and environmental health scientist developing the science to support environmental regulations at the Unites States Environmental Protection Agency in D.C. She earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Xavier and Tulane before later earning a law degree.
“I always tell the story about how my grandfather died of lymphoma,” she said. “Being from Cancer Alley, I always kind of felt a personal charge that what I did for work should benefit the people of that area in terms of that there is safe air, a safe environment, safe water, and safe land to live.”
Williams’ current job keeps her far away from St. Charles Parish most of the time, but she said she visits the area about four or five times a year.
“I miss everything about St. Charles Parish,” she said. “I miss the people. I miss my friends. I miss my family. My husband always tells me that he thinks I turn into a different person when the plane lands in Louisiana.”
Williams said her parents, Dr. Frank Johnson and Shirline Smith Johnson, are proud of her in her White House role – even though she hid it from them for a while.
“I held it a little close for a while, but then I needed security clearance for the White House,” she said, explaining that when security clearance is needed an investigation is usually launched and close family members are contacted. “That’s how the cat got out of the bag … but they’re proud. Every day is an awesome experience you walk onto the White House campus.”
Williams is a product of Killona Elementary School, Lakewood Jr. High, and Hahnville High School. She said one of the things that impacted her life’s journey the most is something right here in St. Charles Parish.
“It’s small but I think it’s big,” she explained. “I never went to daycare in the summer. My grandmother watched us while my parents worked. They had the St. Charles Parish bookmobile that would come every other week and I became an avid reader and an avid learner. I still read way more than I watch TV … significantly more. I think that shaped me.”
Williams said she hopes her life’s journey can serve as an important example.
“I think my whole White House experience … just the fact that I am here … it just proves that it’s an achievable goal,” she said. “It brings that ‘can do’ spirit. I’m just a regular person. It goes to show that you don’t have to be from expansive means to achieve things and be a part of something larger than yourself and bring good to the American people.”