Sage - Don Williams


Meet one of our SagesDon Williams. He’s giving forward by promoting civic engagement to build a better democracy.

Don Williams knows you can fall in love by volunteering. Nearly thirty-five years ago, he met his wife at a meeting of the Oregon City Planning Commission, while he served as volunteer Chair. Since then, Don has found a way to weave civic service and leadership into life, and in retirement, he is more engaged than ever. For Don, the drive to give forward – to help the next generation – is rooted in a deep sense of gratitude for those who inspired and helped him along the way.

Growing up in Oregon City, Don watched his dad work tirelessly as a volunteer to pass bond measures for local schools. Encouraged by the role citizens play in developing and advancing policy, he became actively involved in the City Club of Portland. For forty years, Don has been a force for civic engagement at the Club – as President, as a long-term member of the Board of Governors, the Research Board, and six research committees. According to one friend, “Don is part of the heart and soul of City Club. He notices, he cares, he speaks up.” Most recently, he served on the Club’s Civic Education Research Study and follow-up advocacy work because he believes that a thriving democracy requires deeper investments in citizenship education.

As Chief Operating Officer of the law firm Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt, Don has also served as a mentor, providing counseling and career advice to young adults. He says, “‘paying it back’ is one of those good clichés – rooted in the idea that our successes are built on the investments others made in us.” Taking the time to listen and help someone in need can change their life forever. In today’s electronic world, this personal approach provides the glue to strengthen community and improve people’s lives.

Today, Don continues to explore and participate in new service and advocacy roles such as at the Portland Rescue Mission and its work to break the cycle of homelessness in Portland. He is drawn to service opportunities that promote civility and open-mindedness as an anecdote to the anger and outrage that tends to dominate today’s policy debates. He’s also happy to help anyone who wants to learn about opportunities to promote greater civic engagement and leadership in their communities.


"Paying it back is one of those good clichés – rooted in the idea that our successes are built on the investments others made in us.”
Don Williams

Don's Tips for Giving Forward:

  1. There is a growing need for volunteers, and an incredible range of opportunity to pursue your interests and apply your skills. Ask your friends to join you and do something great.

  2. Never underestimate the value of donating your time to a nonprofit organization. Financial donations are great, but in many cases, the most important investment you can make is to also become a volunteer.

  3. Seek out mentor(s). They not only can help identify opportunities to serve, but give advice on making our volunteer service more effective.

Don is a SAGE peer-to-peer advisor. Contact him with questions.