Cary Williams

Top 40 Under 40 2009

Photography 3TEN

Age: 31

Job Title: Co-chair, City of Edmonton’s Next Gen Committee

Why He’s a Top 40: For being a community-minded, globally ambitious Edmonton booster

“I spent 10 years trying to figure out how I’d never live in Edmonton,” says Cary Williams. “And now I’m one of its biggest cheerleaders.”

The financial advisor is talking about his work co-chairing the City of Edmonton’s Next Gen Committee, which aims to convince talented young people that the city is a great place to be – by connecting them with each other and by building a bridge between young people and the municipal government. But first Williams had to convince himself to stick around the capital.

Like so many transcendental moments of complete understanding, it came to him while in Japan, where he was participating in a university student exchange program. His stay convinced him that in order to make friends in a new place, “you have to get involved.” So when he returned to Edmonton to complete his bachelor of commerce in Japanese studies, he did just that. “I started to meet really interesting, creative people that I didn’t previously know or believe lived in Edmonton,” he recalls.

Aside from Next Gen, he recently joined Edward Jones, a financial investment company that believes in community so strongly its agents are given territory in specific neighbourhoods to focus on, often in their hometowns. They build a clientele the old-fashioned way: open an office, knock on doors and get to know the people and small businesses. No matter the endeavour, Williams utilizes social networking heavily for his work, deflating the idea that all these texting kids are out of touch with reality. He is set to launch the Humanity Calls website soon, where people can donate to charities evaluated by other donors – global wiki-philanthropy.

While we can measure philanthropic or financial advisory success in cold cash, the results of Next Gen won’t be so clear. Are fewer young people leaving Edmonton now because of the task force’s popular “Pecha Kucha Nights” – a haiku of slideshows limited to 20 slides at 20 seconds each, giving brainiacs the chance to quickly share ideas – or because moving is such a pain? Williams says he doesn’t know, but observes that since Next Gen started three years ago, “there seems to be more of us.” By “us” he must mean that there’s more than 40 Top 40s Under 40 around here.

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