Fresh off the phone with a foster parent, Necco’s newest state director Mavis Williamson playfully noted how transitioning from Program Director (and more face time with kids and families) to State Director may take some getting used to. In fact, less time working directly with kids weighed heavily on her mind when considering whether or not to apply for the position. You see, Mavis is a people person. She’s a self-described “recovering people pleaser” who has learned through the years to keep her eyes focused on doing good because it’s the right thing to do.
Mavis joined Necco in April 2013 relocating from Kentucky to Macon, Georgia to assume the role of Program Director. A 17-year veteran with the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice she served as Branch Manager for Alternatives to Detention, working with the court system to keep status and low level public offenders out of juvenile detention centers. She also provided staff support to the KY Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and was responsible for the oversight of federal grant programs. In July 2014, a little more than a year after joining the Necco team, Mavis accepted the position of State Director of Georgia.
“Being comfortable and building character rarely walk alongside each other holding hands. Today I choose to be uncomfortable."
Mavis isn’t a person who likes to talk about herself much, which is surprising given the treasure trove of stories she has to tell. Fortunately, she really doesn’t have to talk about herself at all. From the moment you meet Mavis, you notice almost immediately an underlying current of comfort, compassion and tenacity; qualities that may not always be apparent on the surface. She is humble but competitive; kind but tough.
A native of Pike County, Kentucky Mavis was a star basketball player at Belfry High School. Her talent and athleticism paved the way to a partial scholarship at Pikeville College where she earned her bachelor’s degree. Though she grew up in a family with limited financial resources, Mavis received a great deal of support from those who meant the most to her. Mavis’ mother in particular sacrificed things she needed to provide for her children. Mavis says, “She attended every basketball game, where she proudly wore a badge with my basketball number (#15). She quietly suffered hurts so that we wouldn’t see her pain. She is my hero.”
In addition to her mother she credits her basketball coach and her oldest brother as her biggest inspirations as an adult. Because her family could not afford to fully support her basketball playing, her coach took it upon himself to transport her to practices and camps and to help out financially. “He never expected anything and taught me to give unconditionally,” she says. Now deceased, she says her brother “lived by his own rules. He didn’t care what others thought.”
After undergrad, Mavis enrolled in Eastern Kentucky University where she earned her Master’s in Corrections and Juvenile Justice Studies. Eager to find a job after graduation, Mavis interviewed for a corrections position. Right away she found that she was born to work with people. She also found a cause she became passionate about: the alarming rate at which status offenders are detained and young people are confined and/or tried as adults.
Mavis still champions that cause, and also works closely with LGBT youth. In 2011 she was the recipient of the “Distinguished Alumna” award in recognition of significant contribution and outstanding service to the community. She says, “My work provides an opportunity to educate people about the issues LGBT young people face. Although we may not always understand or even agree with the LGBT community, we need to honor the dignity of everyone. One way we can do that is by providing a safe place for our young people to express themselves without fear of being judged. In fact, we should embrace them for who they are.”
On a personal level, Mavis leads an active life and still enjoys playing basketball with kids in care; something she says will not stop just because she is now the state director. She is also currently training to run her first marathon. “I’m gonna get there,” she says.
“It isn’t about your skill set or your experiences; it is about who you are as a person.”
Mavis’ propensity for care-giving extends beyond kids and families. She is a long-time advocate for greyhound rescue and owns three herself (one of which is a former foster dog that ended up part of the family).
In the next few weeks, Mavis, her three greyhounds and one cat will relocate from Macon to Atlanta, a move that this rural Kentucky native is very much anticipating. “I’m looking forward to expanding my network of people both personally and professionally,” she says. “Plus the restaurants are great!”
As the State Director of Georgia, Mavis says her primary goals are to diversify services, enhance community partnerships, and most importantly, to build families. She is eager to work alongside others in her field, and it is her intention to help folks understand that it isn’t necessarily the services Necco provides that sets the company apart. Rather, it is the way in which services are provided that truly reflect what the Necco brand really means. CEO Beau Necco says, “Her entrepreneurial spirit and individuality are contagious. Look out Georgia; here comes Mavis!”
Mavis is approachable, honest, calmly confident, focused, and compassionate. “What you see is what you get,” she says. She is as unassuming and hard-working a contributor to the team that there is, and expects nothing less from all teammates. Atlanta Program Director Frank Taylor says, “Mavis brings a wealth of experience that will help the GA programming team get to the next level. She leads by example and is passionate about the clients we serve.”
Mavis will never ask you to do something she wouldn’t do herself. She’ll race you to the finish line and win, then circle back to encourage you to finish. She says, “I figure if I can do something each day to make God smile then I know I must have done something good for someone, somewhere.”