Linda Wilder Bryan faces three competitors in the District 3 race
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District 3 Councilwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan stood behind the podium in Savannah a few weeks ago. Her background: a landscape of housing institutions. On the other side of the chain-link fence, there is a group of small houses.
The surrounding housing foundations were the construction of Dundee Cottages, to provide housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. The project is located adjacent to The Cove at Dundee, a tiny house project that houses veterans experiencing homelessness.
Wilder Bryan was there praising the city’s investment in the townhome project.
“We have to keep talking about the good things that are happening in Savannah,” Wilder Bryan said at the event. “Guess what, one of those good things is here.”
As she runs for a second term on the Savannah City Council, Wilder-Bryan is running based on the progress she made during her first term. Meanwhile, the District 3 election has what amounts to the deepest field of challengers for a non-citywide race.
In November, Wilder Bryan will face Clinton Cowart, Todd Rhodes, and Tammy Stone. The list of competing candidates all said the region needs a new vision for leadership.
Here is more about each candidate.
Linda Wilder Bryan (current)
She said in an interview: When Wilder Bryan faces a political decision, she tries to make it a win-win. During her first term on the City Council, Wilder-Bryan said she did a good job in that regard.
“I’m very proud of the work I do, who I am and how I got to this position,” Wilder Bryan said.
Wilder Bryan also has two main political goals for a second term. One of them is working on an initiative that would hold gun owners liable for their stolen guns if they are not stored properly. She said she also hopes to build community policing initiatives during her second term.
Another top priority would be bringing a community gym to the 3rd District, such as the Grant Center gym at the Moses Jackson Center for Advancement, Wilder-Bryan said.
“We deserve it in District 3,” Wilder-Bryan said.
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Cowart wants to strike a balance between the new and the old, he said, as Savannah prepares for the explosive growth brought by the Hyundai Metaplant plant. He said many Savannah natives are being pushed out of town due to the high cost of living.
“I want to make Savannah for everyone, for newcomers and people who are already here,” Cowart said.
Cowart’s top legislative priority is increasing transparency. Cowart said he wants a system that provides public, real-time updates on how money in the city budget is being spent. Cowart said he also wants to shut down the city’s speed cameras. Cowart said he would prefer to spend more money on human police officers.
If elected, Cowart also said he would try to roll back the pay rate, which was one of the biggest decisions the last council made. The current city council decided to maintain the millage rate and use the investments to improve stormwater.
Stone has been a longtime business owner in Savannah, and now runs Xscape Hair Studio. She said she experienced some of Savannah’s most pressing problems firsthand, where she had to move her beauty business to a new location due to high rental costs.
This experience has made rent control a top priority for Stone.
“We have to figure something out because there’s no cap on how much someone can charge you for rent,” Stone said.
When it comes to tackling crime, Stone wants city and school system partnerships to strengthen after-school programs. These programs can also include workforce development opportunities, Stone said.
Stone also said that if elected, she would be able to work with all the other council members. Stone said people deserve better than the current dispute at City Hall.
“I just want to work with everyone,” Stone said.
Some may remember Rhodes from his bid in the recent race for school board president, and now the District 3 native is vying to represent the district in which he grew up. Since running for school board, Rhodes has earned a bachelor’s degree in Christian leadership from Liberty University, he said.
What inspired Rhodes to jump into the race, he said, was seeing untapped potential in the area. Rhodes is also part of a group of candidates who see increasing access to the agenda as a top priority after the council passed rules early this term requiring five council members to support an item to be placed on the agenda.
“It’s not fair, it’s not right,” Rhodes said.
Another top priority for Rhodes is supporting the police department. In addition to increasing officers’ pay, Rhodes said he would also support additional provisions such as housing bonuses to help with recruiting. The ultimate goal is strong community policing, but that can’t be achieved without a fully staffed department first, Rhodes said.
When it comes to the issue of housing in Savannah, Rhodes said he supports setting aside 20-30% of the next special purpose local option sales tax for affordable, workforce and income-based housing. First responders, city employees and downtown hospitality workers should also be prioritized, Rhodes said.
“We built Enmarket Stadium so we could do that,” Rhodes said.
Evan Lassiter is the city and county government reporter for the Savannah Morning News. You can contact him at ELasseter@gannett.com.