One of the first things Nate Sanderson did after being elected president of the Columbus chapter of the NAACP last month was to resign another post:
First vice president of the Muscogee County Republican Party.
“I think the paradigm is shifting,” Sanderson said. “I think you’re going to find that people are thirsty for positive leadership, and political party ideology is probably going to start taking a back seat to getting things done and serving the community.”
Edward DuBose, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, said it may be unusual to have a Republican at the helm of a local chapter, but it has its advantages in Sanderson’s case.
“He brings a different perspective,” DuBose said. “He’s able to reach across the aisle, not just to the white community, but across party lines.
“He has run for office as a Republican, but he has also marched in the streets as an activist.”
Nationally, the GOP has reached out in recent years to the NAACP, hoping to heal an historic political rift that was widened by President George W. Bush. According to the NAACP, Bush was the first president since Warren G. Harding to decline to meet with the organization.
But in July of 2009, then-chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele, the first African-American to hold that position, spoke to the NAACP’s 100th national convention in New York City.
“As you start your second century, now is an opportune time for both the NAACP and Republicans to take hold of their political destinies and step together into a new partnership,” he said. “Think about it this way: if a black man can become chairman of the Republican National Committee, then anything is possible.”
Locally, Sanderson says little is possible without a sound education, which is what he sees as the organization’s most important challenge.
“I want to see how we as a branch can impact the successful education of the young people in our community,” said Sanderson. “We need to make sure our young people get a quality education from pre-school, not just once they enter school, but to make sure they’re prepared to be educated.”
Crime prevention is also a goal, as is reducing incarceration rates by fighting what he called “the cradle-to-prison pipeline.”
Sanderson, 52, was born in St. Petersburg, Fla., and settled in Columbus in 1989, after a 21-year career in the Army. He has been married for 30 years and has three children. He works as an independent insurance agent.
Sanderson succeeded the Rev. Marcus Hunter, who resigned after a year for personal reasons, DuBose said.
“Rev. Hunter did a great job attracting youth to the organization,” DuBose said. “That is what he will be remembered for, getting youth involved.”