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Challenge 2015: G. Lind Taylor, Alderman at Large Post 2

REVEREND G. Lind Taylor has spent most of his working life on the pulpit in congregations from California to Maryland, but he’s also knows the streets. A former public affairs officer with the U.S. Army Reserve, Rev. Taylor has also participated in programming with law enforcement, children and family services agencies and environmental groups around the country.

In 2012, fate and faith led him to Savannah, where he currently leads the flock at First Congregational Church on Whitefield Square. He lives in the historic Cuyler-Brownsville neighborhood and is currently renovating a Craftsman bungalow.

How did you come to find Savannah?

I had retired from my old church in Maryland; I wasn’t coming here to pastor. I came to Savannah to find a place to leave my things while I was to study in Europe, but at the last minute it didn’t work out.

I moved in across the street from the moderator of this church, and she said, “You know, we’re looking for a pastor...” So I came here and preached, and I guess they liked what I was saying. Next thing I know I was called to meeting for an interview.

Why politics, and why the Alderman at large post?

Every church I’ve pastored, I’ve been involved in politics, in civic service, in community work.

I’ve been a commissioner of children and family services. I’ve been director of a re-entry program in Washington, D.C. for prisoners. When I pastored in L.A., I helped implement the first welfare-to-work program.

Since I got here, I’ve worked as the director of constituency for Senator Lester Jackson. I met Senator Jackson at a NAACP banquet and asked if I could help him, because I have that kind of time. He invited me to come to Atlanta with him and I saw a lot of the process.

When I got the text that Tom [Bordeaux] would not be running again, people were saying they felt I had done first class work with the senator. So I talked to my alderman, Van Johnson, at one of the neighborhood association meetings. He said he was staying in District 1, and that the post is wide open.

Up until the deadline that everyone had to declare their candidacy, no one but one other person seemed to want to run.

Now the race has six contenders! Are you still as enthusiastic?

Yes! Once you make a commitment, you have to follow through!

I have gotten out and talked to people, I’ve been attending more neighborhood association meetings all over. One of their biggest concerns is that the at-large people who represent them now do not show up for any of their meetings. They didn’t show up at any of the little affairs around town.

I’ve been at the Port of Savannah, I’m at BASF chemical company, I’m trying to figure it out: If I have access to people who want to make this city better, where are the elected officials? Something is wrong.

What are your plans to make this city better?

We need a plan. A long-term plan, with priorities. Like we do at this church: We meet together, we say, this is what we want to do. Then I come back and say, this is what you said you wanted and why. This is what it’s going to cost, and this is the way we can pay for it. Can we agree and get it done?

Here at this church, we give people an idea and empower them. They give money every Sunday because they believe in that idea.

In this city, we have a different product: Our services. People give their tax money to get a product from the city. They want their trash picked up, they want the police and public safety. They want the grass cut on the easements.

They want permits to start businesses. They want information, so they’ll be clear as to how to proceed.

What has been your experience with Savannah’s permitting process?

With my house, it’s been excellent. I went down there thinking I might have shuffle and shuck and jive, but when I got there, they were so helpful.

However, when I called down for some permits about doing some consulting work out of my home, I found it was a little antiquated. They said, you can’t do it at your house, you’ve got to go to the coffeeshop. Why?

I talked to other people who have had the city come to their house on Sunday and say, your company car is in your driveway and we’re going to have to write you a citation because it appears that you’re doing business at your house.

There have been people who have moved here from New York who say that this city is the most complicated place to do business they’ve ever been!

One of the top issues this election has been tourism and a living wage; what is your viewpoint?

Look, tourism is the industry that’s here. We don’t manufacture cars. We don’t manufacture boats.

And they have a master plan: I’ve been reading a document from [the Tourism and Leadership Council] and it’s a great plan. They’re talking about how to expand, how to increase the low-end parties like St. Patrick’s Day to high profile events, how they can improve wages. If you can get a higher-paying clientele, it lifts up everybody.

But you can’t dog that industry. If you need a job, you can get a job. And that’s better than selling drugs until you can do better.

Any other ideas for economic development?

We have to become partners with our existing businesses. For example, we have auto shops who have been here 20, 30 years, who employ maybe 10 or 12 mechanics. But no alderman has come to them and asked, what do you need to expand?

You’ve been successful here with your own money, what incentives can we provide so that you can hire more people? Can we help you hire students coming out of Savannah Tech, add another 10-15 people to the workload?

At another auto shop, there’s a vacant lot in front of it that’s blighted. Why not come to them and ask, what would it take for you to purchase this land? Do you need more equipment, do you need a small business loan? What will it take?

Let’s work with those who have been faithful, who have paid taxes, who have supported families.

We should also be working with SCAD to develop an award for a student who can come up with the best design for Waters Avenue. Then we go to those who want to do business and say, we will help you with incentives and improve your storefronts. We work with them on how to be more productive, how to specialize, how to buy local. Now we can expand tourism and the community along that corridor.

We don’t have to increase taxes, but we increase the tax base because now we have more volume. We do the same on MLK Boulevard the next year.

We hire our students. We work with businesses to put people to work.

I’ve already talked to a construction company and asked, if we can get you a contract, will you hire as 20 percent of your workforce people returning from prison? He said, yes, I would.

If elected, would you have any issues separating church from state?

No, it would not be an issue. My faith does not inform not about getting into heaven, my faith informs me about how to live on this planet. You and me and have to be together, my faith says that you’re my sister and I’m your brother. My faith says that if you do something wrong to me, it is still my responsibility to find a way to reconcile.

I have already met with the church leaders, and they have seen my work with the senator. They know I will not neglect them, and they gave me their blessing.

Everyone in town can vote for this post, from Ardsley Park to Yamacraw. How do you represent a unifying voice?

First, I speak their language. I have lived in every corner of the United States. I have lived in small villages and big cities. Most of my churches have been not black and not white, but integrated, just people.

I’ve served as a military officer in the army with decoration. I was the first in my family to go to college.

I have leadership skills, I have compassion. I’m not going to lie. I am always available for people.

I come with a moral center.