More intense economic development efforts to bring better jobs, community policing to build good relations and breaking
down barriers to race relations will be among the top priorities of James A. Young when he takes office as mayor next month,
he told the Philadelphia Rotary Club on Monday.
Young told Rotarians
he has been humbled by the collective effort across the city that got him elected.
“I didn’t do it myself,” said Young, the first African-American elected mayor
of Philadelphia, pledging he will be a servant to the people, be responsive to issues and maintain the highest possible standards
“As a servant, I’ve never
forgotten who’s in control. As an elected official, I’m your servant. I’m not your boss, I’m your
servant,” he said.
Young cited a need for productive manufacturing
jobs that would bring about a better quality of life for residents.
He said it is time to “think outside the box” when it comes to economic development and mentioned pursuing
the solar industry.
“If you’re not making any
money, you can’t buy a suit,” he said. “If you’re not making any money, you can’t go downtown
and have a decent meal. We want to do the things from the foundation up to make Philadelphia a better city.”
Community policing, which has been effective nationwide fighting
crime, is a concept that puts officers in neighborhoods where they get to know residents.
“We want the police to be a part of the community and not a object of the community,”
Meeting earlier this month with police
officers, Young said, “This mayor — and I’m not saying the other one did — but I said, ‘this
mayor will not fix tickets. Not going to start, don’t have to stop it. You don’t have to worry about me climbing
your back if you’re doing your job right.’ That’s me.”
Young said he represents all of Philadelphia, not just predominately black Ward 4.
“My leadership is Philadelphia, not Ward 4,” he said.
He spoke of breaking down barriers and said, “If I’m going to keep these reporters
off my back in telling them that Philadelphia has changed — Philadelphia is changed — we are going to have to
see things happen on the ground every day to dispute the reputation that Philadelphia has had.”
Young mentioned that many foreign journalists he’s spoken to since his election, still
have an image of a backward place where people still carry guns for protection.
Calls have come from Rome, France, England, Norway, Chili, Argentina and all over the U.S., he said.
“I don’t know what’s been told across the
water, but I do know what the facts are today,” he said.
“I know that Philadelphia has made a huge step forward in our relationships, in our politics and in our effort
to bring change in our community.”
Young said NBC
Nightly News recently visited the Pentecostal church he’s pastored in Louisville for 18 years for a story that is set
to be broadcast the night of his swearing-in on July 3.
“So if you see me clowning on T.V., that was me. I do that in my services. I enjoy Jesus and I’m not
ashamed of the Gospel I preach.”
got a tastes of “old Southern sanctified” religion, he said.
“So don’t be embarrassed if you see the mayor in a robe shouting down the aisle. That’s who I am.
But I tell you what, I’m sincere about what I bring to Philadelphia. I’m
sincere about good leadership.”
Young, 53, told
Rotarians about his childhood, growing up in the county with three brothers and three sisters and moving to the city in the
As a young single man, he was laid off
at U.S. Motors in 1975 and said after about two weeks his father told him it was time to start looking for a job.
“Back then my parents didn’t let us stay at the
house,” Young said. “We had to go to work. I wasn’t married at the time and they told me after about two
months that ‘it’s time for you to look for a job’.”
He landed a job as a housekeeper at Neshoba County General Hospital where then-hospital administrator Robert Turcotte
Sr. saw his potential and sent him to school to become an emergency medical technician.
“I guess he saw something in me,” Young said. “I was always taught to work
really hard, to do a good job and complete the task. I had a reputation to try anything.”
Turcotte put his confidence in Young, who went on to become the county’s first EMT and
later an EMT-Paramedic, leading the county ambulance service for nearly two decades.
When he first started at the hospital, whoever was closest to the back door took the ambulance
calls, Young said.
Young’s leadership, the ambulance service rose to become one of the top five in the state and the first rural service
to provide paramedic level care.
nearly four terms as a District 5 supervisor before he was defeated in 2007.
That defeat allowed him to step out of politics for awhile and evaluate whether he wanted to become involved once
again, he said.
“After about a year, I told my
wife that I’ve got a burning desire to try for mayor knowing the opposition, knowing the challenger, knowing his roots
in the community which made it look like a David and Goliath type of challenge,” Young said. “But, I love challenges.
I love doing things people say I can’t do. I’m willing to sweat to make it happen.”
Young told Rotarians that he began his campaign in August 2008, pledging to go door-to-door
throughout neighborhoods to discuss the issues facing the city.
He recalled words of wisdom passed down to him by his father through it all.
“My father said when you talk to people look them eye to eye and let them know you are
sincere about what you want to do for them,” he said.
Young spoke passionately about his love for Philadelphia and pledged, as mayor, to remain active and involved.
“I’m not going to stay in the office all day,”
he said. “I’m going be out and about, dealing with you and dealing with the business community. I think it’s
important to stay connected to the people who put me in this position.”
He pointed out that he only won the mayor’s race by 46 votes “There was no mandate,” he said. “I’ve
got a lot of work to do. I’ve set out to prove that those 1,021 voters didn’t make the wrong choice.
I know it’s going to take a lot of work. A lot of barriers
have to be torn down, gotten over and passed on.”
He promised to work for economic development, saying leaders have to “think outside the box these days.”
Automotive is not the hottest industry right now and it is
time to start looking at projects where the money is going such as solar energy, he said.
He made note that one Philadelphia business was already utilizing solar energy.
He also spoke briefly about building codes.
“You may hear a little screaming here and there but to bring our city up to the bar,
we are going to be looking at building codes where you can’t build anything anywhere.
“It doesn’t make sense to put a shed by a million dollar bank,” he said.
Pointing to Rotary’s “Four
way test” and motto of “Service above self” hanging on banners
on the walls, Young told Rotarians that he would be a mayor for all the city and not just Ward 4, noting that he elected to
host his victory celebration in DeWeese Park, near the center of the city.
He pledged to continue his work to improve the community’s image throughout the world.
“I love this city. I love working in this community,” Young said.