For the past few years the Badge & Gun has quoted HPOU Board Member Rhonda Williams a growing number of times since she has spearheaded some popular Union projects, all stressing the importance of family activities.
Even in this issue you will see stories about the HPOU Bowling Night and the HPOU Financial Seminar – not to mention the Education Committee’s work in the HPOU Scholarship Program.
Sgt. Williams has taken the lead in each of these fun and educational programs, never dodging the hard work involved and always downplaying her personal role in the process. The fact is, she was reluctant to detail the beginning of a new “extra job” – that of playwright. She’s the writer and the producer.
First, let’s tell you that her first-ever play, When Love Finds You, will debut March Friday and Saturday, March 13 and 14 at the Ensemble Theater, 3535 Main Street. (Please go to Eventbrite.com to purchase your tickets).
The B&G has offered stories about officers who have written books over the years, but this is the first time we’ve had a story about a sergeant/playwright. Sounds fun.
Let’s get to the details, beginning with a bit of biography.
Williams is a Houston woman through and through – a graduate of Jack Yates High School with degrees from Houston Community College, University of Houston—Downtown (bachelor’s degree) and UH-Clear Lake (master of arts). Initially, she worked with HPD as a civilian in the Identification, Planning and Development and Neighborhood Protection divisions.
In 1995 she became a member of HPD Cadet Class No. 162. The rest of the story that is “history” has many highlights, including the fact that Williams became a sergeant the first time she took the test.
All along this path over the past 25 years Sgt. Williams has adhered to her strong devotion to God and to the HPD, not to mention the members of the Houston Police Officers Union and their families.
She is a strong believer in unity and finding a common ground on which people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs can work together. Williams received her mediation certificate from the Dispute Resolution Center of Harris County. Currently she serves in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in the Department’s Grievance and Mediation Unit.
One can’t formally interview Williams without touching on the subject of the Good Lord whether the actual topic is HPD, HPOU or writing a play. She draws on her decades of policing experiences, including her one-time assignment as quartermaster when every HPD officer was coming to her unit to pick up the new Houston blue uniforms of all different sizes. She used this experience to illustrate her approach to policing – and to all of life’s challenges.
“Every day we are working in a most stressful job,” this “people person” she said. “Everything is an immediate need. Everything is important. We need it now. It was important to understand their needs and make them a priority. We are not too busy to do this – to accommodate. I know how to multi-task – to leave one and go to the other and come back to where I was.”
God in the Picture
To Williams, serving her fellow brothers and sisters means thinking outside the box. “Outside an assembly line you have to get people together to perform the job,” she said.
“I know how to reach out with the favor of God where people help me and don’t mind helping me. His favor is always on me. It’s there because of Him and it works because of Him, not because of me.
Before she became a sergeant, Williams was on the streets as a member of South Central Patrol and Clear Lake Patrol. Besides that stint in Uniform Supply and serving as a mediator, in her 25 years she has also served on the Central Security Detail, Budget and Financial Grants section, the Marshall’s Department, the jail and – as a sergeant – in Southwest Patrol. She also has served as a clergy liaison officer.
To continue to accentuate her multi-tasking abilities, Williams serves on the HPOU’s Legal Committee and Building Committee in addition to the three years of running the Union’s scholarship program as chair of the Education Committee.
In the latter endeavor, Williams is recognized for – in the words of HPOU’s Lisa Marino – “bringing to the table something that nobody else has thought of,” requesting donations from suppliers and vendors to defray HPOU’s cost of the scholarship breakfast and the awards. Marino said Williams’ work has resulted in trophies for each awardee in addition to the scholarship funding to defray the recipients’ costs of their first year of college. As a result, more and more sons and daughters of HPOU members are applying for and receiving these scholarships.
But the multi-tasker has another challenging task for the moment. Now she will tell you she has added a rehearsal schedule and hours of planning the details of her first stage production.
When Love Finds You is described as “a heartfelt story of three women coming together for the home-going celebration of their best friend and their journey of when love looks and feels right but sometimes deceives and goes wrong.” The question is asked: Will their faith withstand the test?
“God is there,” Rhonda Renee answered when asked the obvious question.
The alliterative R name is being used as the sergeant’s playwright alias. Her production company is R. Renee Productions. The website is rreneeproductions.com.
Besides the fact that one of Williams’ two daughters is an HPD officer – Trinay Taylor, an undercover officer in Vice – the playwright learned, coincidentally, that two members of the cast and crew have personal connections to the Department.
Rachelle Harris, who portrays the character April, is the daughter of retired senior police officer, Reginald Harris. “I didn’t know that until later,” Williams explained, “Until we started rehearsing. He (Reginald) texted me and said she was his daughter.”
Then there is Don Dotson, the assistant director/stage manager. He’s a retired HPD officer. “I only met him when I was looking for someone to give me help, the inside on how to do things and I was referred to him,” Williams recalled.
It figures, doesn’t it? A former cop directing and managing!
The play centers around the three female characters, April, May and June. The actresses are Harris (April), Shundranieka Ross (May) and Tiffany Simple-Ogunjebi (June).
We won’t give away the finer points and nuances of the two-act play. Go buy a ticket for that.
However, we must ask Sgt. Williams if this is going to turn into an extra job of sorts or a “retirement job?”
“This is something I wanted to try,” Rhonda Renee responded, “to see if I had a niche for it. It’s something I wanted to try out to see if it’s part of the next phase of my life. I wanted to do some plays and see if I had the talent before I retired and see if it were something I could walk into retirement.”
But she said she isn’t planning on retiring for about five years when she reaches the 30-year mark. It seems apparent that her future stage endeavors will entail God-driven stories about strong family ties and challenges.
Williams has plenty of those ties. Her father was a construction superintendent, her mother a banker, one of the first African American women to be hired by a Houston bank and the first to work there long enough to earn a retirement.
Rhonda Renee apparently has that same pioneering spirit as a police officer, a mediator and a playwright – the author of one play.