Seven months away from the election, the first 2020 candidate trying to become a new representative on the Muscogee County School Board has taken the initial official step.
The Rev. Walter Taylor, senior pastor of The Life Church of Columbus and director of The Life Center, has filed in the county’s elections office the form that allows him to accept campaign contributions for the May 19 nonpartisan election.
Taylor seeks the board’s District 7 seat, held by Cathy Williams.
In an emailed interview with the L-E, Taylor said he wants to be “the voice for my neighbors and friends on the board. … I appreciate Mrs. Williams for her many years of selfless service; however, I believe that it is time for change.”
Asked why District 7 residents should vote for him instead of Williams, he said, “As a religious leader and community activist, I see the need to redress the educational and literary needs of our community. It’s time for the voices of District 7 to be heard in a broader capacity.”
Taylor also is the chaplain for Taylor Funeral Home and owner of Tax Giant USA.
He lists previous employers as the U.S. Marine Corps, Glory Hospice and Charles E. Huff’s International Funeral Home. He said he was a Marine for eight years and was honorably discharged as a sergeant.
His community involvement has included serving on the executive board of the Columbus branch of the NAACP and as a member of the Disabled American Veterans and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.
Taylor, 35, graduated from Carver High School in 2002. He earned an associate’s degree in funeral services from Gupton-Jones College, a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix, a master’s degree in biblical studies and a doctorate in theology from North Carolina College of Theology, and a doctorate in philosophy from St. Thomas University.
“I truly believe that my lived experience, my education and ultimate passion to see children succeed in education make me a qualified candidate,” he said.
Asked what is the most important problem in the school district and how it should be solved, Taylor said, “There is a major literacy problem in MCSD, and one of the greatest ways to combat the issue is developing programs to permit more parental involvement and accountability.”
Williams said she plans to seek to re-election.
“My hope is that the principals and teachers, parents and taxpayers, know how hard I have worked to represent them well, while maintaining accountability and seeking to improve standards,” she told the L-E in an email. “The Muscogee County School Board is operating as a cohesive governance team, keeping it about the kids. All indicators are moving in the right direction for our students and District 7 particularly. I believe that continuity of service on our school board will benefit the constituents, parents and taxpayers of District 7.”
Three other representatives on the nine-member board also will be determined for the next four-year terms during the May 19 nonpartisan elections:
- District 1, held by chairwoman Pat Hugley Green.
- District 3, held by Vanessa Jackson.
- District 5, held by vice chairwoman Laurie McRae.
Jackson and McRae said they she will seek re-election. The L-E didn’t reach Green for comment before this story’s deadline.
“I am running again so that I can continue to be the voice for the students and families in District 3,” Jackson told the L-E in an email. “The community needs steady representation during this time of change. I’m happy to have the continuing support of my constituents as their representative.”
McRae told the L-E in an email, “I am as committed now as I was four years ago to providing all children in the Muscogee County School District with the best educational opportunities possible. Now, with three years of experience, I understand how much more is involved in achieving that. I want to use the knowledge I have gained to continue representing District 5 and to serve our school district as we strive to achieve that goal.”
Candidates for the school board are not official until qualifying during the first week of March at the Muscogee County Elections and Registration Office.
The qualifying period will start March 2 at 9 a.m. and end March 6 at noon.
In addition to filing paperwork, local candidates must pay a qualifying fee to be determined by Columbus Council. The qualifying fee for school board candidates was $360 in 2018 and 2016.