(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column of those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Augusta Press.)
As most in our community have become aware, we are in the run-off portion of the mayor of Augusta race. As one of the candidates offering themselves up for service to this community, I am humbled and proud of the support, prayers and encouragement that I have gotten as I talk with residents each day. My story and pathway to this place is unremarkable, yet for some predictable, as I have always looked for ways to serve my community, and my recent life as a government official gave me many opportunities to do just that.
I was born and raised in Augusta, educated in Richmond County public schools (Westside High School Class of 1986) and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Florida A&M University’s School of Business and Industry with a B.S. in Business Administration and later with an MBA. After working in corporate America during college and afterwards, I negotiated a move back home to Augusta and worked both as a local pharmaceutical representative and with our family’s business of 50+ years, Augusta Blueprint.
During my time at the family business, I became very community focused and followed in my father’s footsteps of being locally active when possible, in community organizations. I served on the boards of the Salvation Army, United Way, Lucy Craft Laney Museum, Minority Business Development Council and many others. I served in leadership positions as chair for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Augusta, the chair of the Downtown Development Authority, chair of Leadership Augusta and Chair of the Augusta Economic Development Authority. In 2007 I felt the draw to do even more so I started a foundation called the E3 Leadership Foundation, Inc. that primarily serves to support youth programs including Youth Leadership Augusta, Project Impact, Project Build and others. Even with all the community service obligations going on, I still felt I could do more. It was during that time that the public official thoughts became more focused, and I eventually was elected Richmond County’s tax commissioner in 2008.
I immediately set about changing the culture and image of what was perceived as an inefficient organization that lacked customer service excellence in its two satellite tag offices and Municipal Building tax office. I was able to lead an organization to offer what we described as a “Faster. Friendlier. Better.” customer experience and we soon became what many describe as the best run agency in Augusta’s government. We also became the gold standard statewide for training and technology, and I served as an officer (vice president of Georgia Association of Tax Officials and Treasurer of Tax Commissioner’s Technology Conference) in both of the tax commissioner statewide organizations. Further still, we became instrumental in the training of new leaders in our local government and remain a resource for elected officials, department heads, etc.
As a candidate for mayor, I have declared that there will be a “Difference Day One” as I looked to describe why my leadership, experience, vision and plan for Augusta was the optimal option for our city. I truly believe that the combination attributes I describe are exactly what Augusta needs right now…today.
Leadership matters and my demonstrated leadership with a variety of organizations for over two decades should be an important variable in a voter’s decision making. Relevant experience is important and a firm understanding of how to make government work for ALL residents as demonstrated thru the tax commissioner’s office is measurable. An achievable vision offers hope, and I have a vision for our city that includes less blight and better infrastructure in East Augusta, more retail and restaurants in South Augusta, more green space, better streets capes and less congestion in West Augusta, better lighting and safety measures for Downtown Augusta and frankly, cleaning up the entire city for all 52 weeks. Lastly, a plan to accomplish all of the aforementioned is needed, and having the credibility from a successful track record in government is the foundation for relationship building with the Augusta Commission and Director level staff.
I would like for residents to hear from me directly that I am a hard-working, honest, super-organized collaborator who has developed a reputation for being able bring people together to get really important projects and initiatives done. I was or am intimately involved in the creation of the incredibly successful Saturday Market on the River, the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center of Augusta on the Augusta Canal, the new Boys and Girls Club headquarters and HUB for Community Innovation campus in the 15th Street corridor, the recruitment and location of our two newest corporate citizens, Aurubis and PureCycle, which are recycling juggernauts that will bring over 300 well paid jobs and $700 million dollars in investment to our city. And of course, the recently announced Regency Mall project proposal, which will serve as a transformational catalyst to South Augusta’s potential resurgence. I don’t often get involved in projects, programs or organizations that don’t improve, get better and succeed. I try to leave the things better than they were when I arrived or lay a foundation for the next. I promise the residents, Augusta, Georgia and its government will be no different.
Over the last six months, I can’t say the campaign hasn’t been an eye-opening experience. As someone who most would consider a “campaign veteran,” I must say I am somewhat surprised at the level of “intentional misinformation” and “selective research” offered up as facts and mean-spirited opinion. Some find it easy to accept the manufactured rumor when it fits a particular narrative or agenda. While they spew venom from their perch of superiority and self-righteousness, families, friends and colleagues suffer from the burden of trying to explain very personal things that have real meaning but become a political football for detractors to toss around. I personally have a blended family with six adult children who are in various stages of their lives and a wife who is a healthcare worker and recent breast cancer survivor. They seem to forget we are all someone’s father, son, brother, friend, etc. Nevertheless, it has become commonplace in our political races at all levels to accept what we would never accept in the rest of our day to day lives. I guess everybody wasn’t raised the same way.
I truly love Augusta and would be honored by the opportunity to help advance our city to what I believe is its rightful destiny as a world-class city as its mayor. Let’s not mask our true greatness anymore. Let’s not keep it a secret. Let’s work together collectively to become the place that others wonder about when they witness Augusta’s magical run of growth and prosperity on a trajectory that was thought to be unheard of. It’s possible and under my leadership, I dare say, probable.
As I close, I ask for your consideration, support and vote as Augusta’s next mayor, and I feel it important you know that I am Christ centered, my steps are ordered, and I don’t depend on my own understanding for the reasons as to why people do and say what they do. In the words of Mother Theresa…People are unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
If you are kind, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find sincerity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
Steven B. Kendrick
Augusta Mayoral Candidate