J. Nicholas Williams is the Director of Parks, Recreation and Youth Development (OPRYD) for the City of Oakland, California.  A native of Oakland, Williams has served the citizens of Oakland as Director since June of 2016. Williams is dedicated to improving the quality of life of all citizens by engaging the community in the preservation and expansion of recreational facilities and programs. With a specific emphasis on Oakland’s youth, Williams currently leads OPRYD in providing transformational experiences and equitable opportunities.

Prior to assuming this role, Williams established an impressive career as Assistant Superintendent of Recreation for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which was recently recognized as the number one park system in the world by the Trust for Public Land.  In this role, Williams led the Recreation Division that boasts 49 centers, 7 golf courses, and operates hundreds of programs serving youth, adults and seniors in the Minneapolis Metropolitan Area. Prior to Minneapolis, Nicholas served as the Director of Parks, and the Director of Recreation at The City of Atlanta’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, and Atlanta‐based non‐profit Park Pride.

As the Director of Community Building for Park Pride, Williams was responsible for creating dynamic partnerships with organizations such as The Home Depot, Hands on Atlanta and Habitat for Humanity to develop and execute beautification initiatives at city parks. Under Williams’ leadership, Park Pride established over 40 Friends of the Park interest groups at multiple parks across the city. Additionally, Park Pride was the recipient of numerous grants and awards based on his grassroots efforts in resource development.

After leaving Park Pride, Williams continued to The City of Atlanta’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs where he served in various roles, including Operations Manager for Community Outreach for the Office of Parks and later as the Interim Director of Parks. One of his major accomplishments while in the Office of Parks was establishing an Apprenticeship Program, which encourages more comprehensive managerial training for employees to increase internal promotion. This program was a morale boost for the Office of Parks and resulted in increased opportunities for employees.

Williams also served as the Interim Director of the Office of Recreation where he managed the development and execution of recreation programs for youth, adults and senior citizens at over 30 recreation centers and facilities. When Williams accepted the position, enrollment in the recreation centers was at an all‐time low. He made some critical hires, including a Programming Manager and a Business Process Manager, worked with staff to uncover many of the issues plaguing the department, developed a turnaround strategy and tripled enrollment within six months. He is also credited with improving the City of Atlanta’s summer camp program, Camp Best Friends, where enrollment doubled from the previous summer. During his tenure, Williams received accolades from the Mayor of Atlanta for piloting the nationally acclaimed Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom Schools in four recreation centers, which now operate at full capacity.  

Williams holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Criminal Justice from Morehouse College.  He is married to Renee Williams; together they have 3 children, Marshe, Nicholas Jr., and Cameron.