Kimberly J. Williams
Chief Innovation Officer
“The Office of Innovation is a new department, and we are proud that METRO took the bold step of creating it.”
— Kimberly J. Williams
Kimberly J. Williams has one of the most interesting jobs around. As the chief innovation officer at METRO’s in-house “idea factory,” her job is to scout out the latest and greatest developments in transportation and figure out how to make them work for the Houston area. “The Office of Innovation is focused on bringing the best in class of vehicles, products, and services to our customers,” says Williams.
If you could take a peek at her imaginary drawing board, you would see that Williams’ vision of our transit future includes air-conditioned, solar-powered shelters, Wi-Fi on all services, individual entertainment, on-demand service, and driverless vehicles for carpooling. Sure, it’s just a wish list. But her department already has a lot of those wish list items in the works and on the roads.
METRO’s Office of Innovation successfully secured Texas as a recognized autonomous-vehicle proving ground. That means that driverless technology is ready to be tested and refined on our high-occupancy vehicle lanes. METRO recently conducted a pilot project that evaluated electric buses, and leads Team Houston in the Texas Innovation Alliance, a program in which cities across the state and the nation tackle mobility challenges. In 2017, METRO hosted the second Texas Mobility Summit, showcasing transit solutions that, not long ago, seemed like the stuff of science fiction.
There’s a reason Williams is so driven to make things happen - she grew up in an automotive family in Detroit. “The market share of the Big Three fell almost 50 percent between 1965 and 2010,” she says. “Living in that environment taught me the future does not wait for you to get ready. You either get ready for it, or you cease to exist.”
Williams is an attorney by training, with extensive experience in law, academia, city and state government affairs, and transportation. Her previous professional positions have taken her to California, Washington, D.C. and Beijing. She has used mass transit in dozens of major cities in and out of the United States. She’s seen what works, what doesn’t work, and what makes transit easy and pleasurable to use.
That diverse background enables her to be creative and imaginative while skillfully navigating complex local and federal regulations.
Williams is a committed Houstonian and METRO rider. She regularly uses the transit system, enjoys the murals and public art on display in the transit centers, and appreciates the area’s diversity. She is active in her community and is the proud mother of daughter MacKenzie.
- METRO, Deputy Chief Procurement Officer
- METRO, Chief Administration Officer
- Attorney, city of Houston
- Texas Southern University, Vice President of External Relations
- International Labor Office of Beijing, People’s Republic of China
- Legislative Attorney, Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress
- Legislative Aide to U.S. Representative Barbara Rose Collins (ret.) Member of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee
Professional Associations and Activities
- Past President Emeritus, Houston Chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO)
- Member, COMTO National Legislative Affairs and Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) Committees
- Member, American Public Transit Association (APTA) Procurement and Materials Committee
- Member, APTA Small Business Committee
- Presided over METRO’s award-winning Small and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Programs
- Emerging Leader of the Year, COMTO
- First Director of the Barbara Jordan Institute for Policy Research, Texas Southern University
- Recipient, Congressional Black Caucus Internship
- Survey Editor, Wayne Law Review
- Past Board Member, Greater Houston Black Chamber
- Past Board Member, Midtown Redevelopment Authority
- Treasurer, Greater Channel Chapter of Jack and Jill Inc.
- Member, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
Education and Certifications
- Graduate, Leadership Houston
- Graduate, Leadership APTA
- Certified Mediator and Arbitrator
- J.D., Wayne State Law School, Detroit, Michigan
- B.A., Howard University, Washington, D.C.