Editor’s Note: Final in a 12-part series about the candidates seeking elected office in Albany’s Nov. municipal election.
ALBANY — For Albany mayoral candidate Tracy Taylor, his candidacy speaks to adversity in the community.
As one of six black candidates in the seven-person contest, it isn’t his race that Taylor is referring to. It’s his political affiliation.
“Even though it is a nonpartisan race, I am proud to be a Republican in this time of history,” he said. “By being the first African-American to chair the Dougherty County Republican Party, it reflects my tenacity in thinking of true changes on all levels, whether or not it is an unpopular decision. I think people are waking up to diversity.”
Like most of his six opponents who face off in the Nov. 5 municipal election, Taylor, who works in Waycross as a firefighter, identified crime as the No. 1 issue facing the city.
He did not place any blame on the Albany Police Department but said that agency needs help in order to cut down on violent and property crimes in the city. The department is facing a shortage in manpower and is nearly two dozen officers short of full staffing.
Taylor said he thinks one potential solution is introducing a “part-time program” to help fill holes in shifts. Under his proposal, a certified officer in another city who has available time would work a shift in Albany.
“I would increase manpower to our local law enforcement agencies by incorporating a part-time program and helping our department actively seek well-qualified officers for full-time and part-time positions,” Taylor said.
The candidate said he also would work to increase police presence in communities where police precincts have been closed in recent years. Part of that would involve seeking state and federal policing grants.
“I would actively (work) to obtain mobile command units we can place in crime-infested areas to have fast response times and to be a deterrent by having a show of force and being visible in those areas,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he also would like to enact some measures to protect first responders, not only police officers but all first responders. That would include protecting paramedics and firefighters by providing body vests that would offer protection from gunfire.
Paramedics and firefighters often arrive at dangerous scenes before police, said Taylor, who referenced some instances in the nation where a shooter lured first responders by setting fires and then ambushed them.
Taylor also supports having two officers in the same car so they can provide backup.
“For example, I talked to an office who had a call to a burglary as (another) officer got a domestic violence call,” he said. “He was forced to abandon that burglary call to back hthe other officer up because of the danger his partner faced on answering that domestic-violence call.”
With roughly a third of the city’s inhabitants living in poverty, economic development and addressing the income divide is another issue that candidates have raised.
Taylor said he thinks his relationship with Gov. Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican, will benefit Albany. He pointed to a recent project in Bainbridge as an example, and said the city should work with the governor to get in line for a future project.
“The gun manufacturer Taurus that moved into Bainbridge is hiring up to 300 workers and pumping $85 million worth of infrastructure in that community,” Taylor said.
Bringing companies that are looking for workers into a relationship with Albany Technical College and Albany State University is another key, he said.
“We’re going to have to attract manufacturing jobs that are suitable for our work force through Albany Technical College,” he said. “We have students who are certified CDL drivers, electricians, plumbers, welders, etc. that would help maintain the economy and grow our tax base.
“We have to realize we’re not connected to a major highway or port, like Savannah, so when we talk about bringing jobs, we need to take that into account and attract manufacturing jobs, jobs that will require skilled workers.”
When Cooper Tire and Firestone were in operation, hundreds of area residents were involved in making “American-made” products, and bringing that back to Albany should be the goal, Taylor said.
When workers are employed and have health insurance coverage, they have access to medical services they otherwise would not have, he said. That makes for healthier individuals and a stronger community and creates demand for jobs in other fields.
“If we produce more jobs, there would be more citizens that will need a network of providers — dental, health and vision,” he said. “I intend to put the skilled worker on my back to build up a vibrant economy for the common man. That is my road map to jump-starting Albany back to prominence and making Albany great again.”
Taylor’s third priority would be bulking up the city’s capabilities to respond to natural disasters.
The region has faced several severe storms — from straight-line winds to a hurricane — in recent years. Preparing for the next one would be a priority for Taylor. This includes, he said, drafting plans for responding to and providing relief for natural disasters.
It also means equipping emergency workers for dealing with the aftermath and protecting the lives of residents.
“Our fire department must have the necessary equipment to cut down trees and help with debris removal and cleaning roadways when a natural disaster hits,” he said.
Finally, Taylor said he he thinks the city should look at utility rates and give customers some relief on costs.
“These are the main issues I will address from day one as mayor and restore hope to our citizens,” he said. “I think I should be mayor because the people are demanding a strong leader who is ready to deliver real results, and also the people want someone that’s going to make the community feel safe and help bring back jobs and also bring a sense of respect and accountability to the city.”