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Hidden Heroes
Mr. Countryside a people person
Doug Williams believes that helping the community is a matter of who you know, not what you know.
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Doug Williams is Mr. Countryside, community minded and always willing to help.
CLEARWATER – There’s a downside to being Mr. Countryside. The honoree is expected to organize the following year’s pageant.

But Doug Williams, 65, last year’s Mr. Countryside, doesn’t mind. He believes that the secret to successfully organizing such events isn’t what you know, but who you know.

“When you do community type things you have to know a lot of people,” he said. “Most people are willing to help, but they’re waiting for somebody to take the lead and tell them what to do. I have a knack for getting people to help me.”

Bermuda-born to an English father and an American mother, he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps at New York University and was commissioned as an army lieutenant after his graduation in 1962. The next year, he was sent to Korea, which was then a staging area for the coming war in Vietnam. He then began a 33-year banking career, much of it as a private banker at Irving Trust Company in Manhattan.

“We dealt with high-power people,” he said. “That’s why I have no fear of people.”

After losing his job as a result of a hostile takeover, he moved to Florida and went to work for Sun Bank.

“I got very involved in the community,” he said. “I run from meeting to meeting. I’m a big believer in helping people. I can’t say no.”

Currently, he belongs to several organizations. Paint Your Heart Out, Citizens for a Better Clearwater, Kiwanis, the Civil Emergency Response Team and the city’s Code Enforcement Board are just a few of them. He’s president of the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition, past-president of Springtime City, and on the board of the Clearwater Region Chamber of Commerce. He also helps the Red Cross staff its hurricane shelters.

“Because of my activities, I can pull things off that the average guy couldn’t,” he said.

He helped organize the 17 organizations, 118 volunteers and 256 students that put on the 11th annual Highlight on Health health fair for the benefit of Morton Plant Hospital. And he’s already gearing up for next year’s fair, to be held at the Long Center on July 16.

“I don’t just go to meetings,” he said. “I participate, and I’m not afraid to make decisions.”

In 1977, Williams was licensed as a ham radio operator. “My call sign, WB2LEZ, is known all over the world,” he said.

He chose the Northwood West home he shares with his wife, Lani, largely because its location offers excellent radio reception for the giant antennae that rises high above the roof. With his radio, he can communicate with other ham operators anywhere in the world.

“I’m a big believer that if you work with people you should meet them and know who they are,” he said. So he attends ham radio conventions to meet operators he has talked with on the radio.

After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, he helped Homestead residents get messages to their loved ones outside the devastated area. Over the summer, he did the same for the victims of Hurricane Charley.

“We were talking to Punta Gorda the next day,” he said.

Williams has two grown sons and two granddaughters, all in Pinellas County. When he’s not attending meetings or talking on the radio, he enjoys woodworking.

“I love to work with tools,” he said. “I make big boards into little boards.”
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