Randy Taylor, a 58-year-old Camden Avenue resident who centered his campaign on questioning Downtown parking and redevelopment decisions, was elected Tuesday as Salisbury’s mayor.
Taylor defeated City Councilwoman Megan Outten and youth advocate Jermichael Mitchell to succeed Jack Heath as the 3oth mayor in the city’s history.
Taylor received 1,032 votes, to 976 votes for Outten and 810 votes for Mitchell.
The results are not official. Elections officials will begin counting absentee votes on Thursday, as well as any provisional votes.
There are roughly 220 absentee votes to be considered.
A second and final count will occur Friday, Nov. 17, and then the contest could be called as final.
Taylor garnered 36 percent of the vote to 34 percent for Outten, and 29 percent for Mitchell. The final vote totals will change somewhat, once absentees and mail-in ballots are counted.
Taylor is a former commercial banker with M&T Bank and political conservative who now restores homes and operates a rentals business.
Six years ago, he left the banking industry to form a historic restoration business.
During the campaign, he voiced frustration with the city’s government, saying it helped propel his candidacy, though he had thought for years about seeking the mayor’s seat.
A lifelong Salisbury resident, Taylor purchased his current North Camden home in 2000, converting it from a 14-unit rooming house into a grand single-family home, where he and his now former wife raised their two children.
“I saw things no one seemed to be aware of,” he said when discussing the genesis of his campaign. “I saw things happening where there didn’t seem to be broad community buy-in.”
Taylor has repeatedly questioned the manner in which the city has disposed of its surplus properties. Developers bid on these tracts – most of which have been in the city’s hands for years after the city assumed failed business sites – and the routine criticism is that developers pay far less than the assessed value.
Taylor has most recently criticized the city’s role in building a parking garage as part of Salisbury Town Center on Lot 1 – a plan that he says will result in the city losing $400,000 or more each year.
He has also assailed city spending in recent years, pointing out the city has raised property taxes five times in 11 years, while also benefiting from a 20 percent increase in the accessible base.
“The dialogue I have with people in the city is different from what you hear at council meetings,” he said, meaning the council and the citizens are not on the same page issues-wise.
While questioning some recent construction, however, Taylor maintains he is pro-development.
“I am pro-development. I am pro-Downtown. There is a lot that can be done in these seas of parking that we have Downtown,” he said.
A problem, Taylor said, is that when city officials communicate development goals,” they are “heavy on the big picture, light on the questions.”
Taylor is the only one of the three candidates to declare panhandling as an issue that needs to be strongly addressed, pointing to that perpetual problem as a quality of life issue.
On affordable housing, he has reminded potential voters that housing projects proposed for Downtown do not allow for affordable housing.
“The Smart Growth model has made creating housing more difficult, expensive and lengthy,” he said. “We’ll need to utilize the existing infrastructure in the neighborhoods.”
Like Outten, he said he would rely on city staff to help him gain municipal and political experience.
“There are plenty of talented people who work for the city,” he said,
Taylor has been criticized as benefiting from the same city/developer policies that he has criticized.
In 2004, Taylor purchased the cleared site of the old Ulman Theater on West Main Street. According to city records, he paid $25,000 for what is now known as Parker Place. The tract had an estimated assessment value of $125,000 at the time.
Under the conditions of the sale, Taylor and his wife operated a garden center on the property, off and on for several years.
Recently, when discussing the case, Taylor pointed out that few businesses last 19 years, so it’s unreasonable to think the Parker Place garden center should still be in operation.
At a mayoral form this month, he called the $125,000 assessment “a rogue appraisal” and stated that no developer would have ever paid such a price.
Taylor said his chief mission is to “make Salisbury an affordable place for people to live, raise their families and live their lives.”
“I am running for mayor because I love Salisbury, I have a particular set of skills, and I can help guide her.
“What I have seen (in recent years) has really upset me,” he said. “Transparency and progress is where I’m headed with this administration.”
Outten, a 30-year-old lifelong city resident who has served on the City Council since last spring. She lives on Winder Street in the Camden neighborhood. She works for an offshore wind company.
Mitchell, 39, is a youth leader, a former city neighborhoods official and an outspoken advocate for inclusion and change.
Salisbury’s mayor is paid $50,000 annually. The new mayor will be sworn into office on Monday, Nov. 20.
This story will be updated.