Lt. Colonel Gary Myers is running for the vacant District 2 city council seat. Myers is a Columbia native, spent 23 years in the military, retiring as a Decorated Combat Veteran. He later worked as a Department of Defense Contractor (international), taught Spanish and coached football at a tough inner city school. Also, along with his brother a City Police Officer, has mentored countless numbers of local youth. He came home to Columbia after a special assignment to Haiti, where he assisted in the transition of the Haitian Government from Dictatorship to Democracy.
We pitched him the same off-the-wall questions we asked at-large candidate, Grant Robertson, last week. He was a good sport!
COLUMBIA CITY PAPER: Many in Columbia, this newspaper and current mayoral candidates included, have called for an end to the cityâ€™s longstanding policy of awarding taxpayer-funded grants and contracts to entities associated with city board members and employees. The questionable dealings over the years â€“some that involve sitting city council membersâ€”are too numerous to name here. What would you say to disenfranchised voters who are tired of this behavior? Why should those voters pull the lever for you on April 6? And what can city government do to get its own hand out of the cookie jar?
I would say that it is that perception that inspired me to run for public office. If I were elected, I would fight to bring those challenges of â€œbasement decisionsâ€ to light. Tough decisions have to be made in the â€œTown Squareâ€. That is the only way this perception of â€œGood Ole Boy Politicsâ€ can be defeated. I have spent the majority of my adult life fighting for the principles of Democracy. There has to be a trust between elected officer holders and their constituents. That trust seemingly has been violated. Vote for me and I will help restore that trust.
CCP: What inspired you to run?
As I stated earlier, I have fought for democracy for the majority of my life. My brother, at the time a city police officer, challenged me to leave Haiti, where I was working, and to come home to fight for better representation for folks in our old neighborhoods. The major challenges he saw were: safer neighborhoods, better educational support, the environment and job opportunities for our young adults. After years of research and involvement, I decided the only way to change the system was to get involved politically.
CCP: If you ever visit former councilman E.W. Cromartie in federal prison, what advice will you ask of him?
GM: What were his true goals and vision of Columbia and of District II? Mr. Cromartie has been an important part of the Columbia political landscape for more than 30 years. I might not agree with all of his actions and decisions, but in this arena he is an â€œexpert.â€ One canâ€™t spend that much time in any profession and not know a ton of stuff. I would try to gather as much information as I could to help District II and the city move forward.
CCP: How are your taxes coming along this year?
GM: [Laughter.] Done! And it looks like I will get a small refund. For that I prayâ€¦.
CCP: Public transportation has been a huge issue this election. Where do we start to fix our current system?
GM: That is one challenge the new mayor has promised to take on. I will hold him or her accountable for that promise. Like you, I will be interested in his or her approach. I will demand that my citizens (District II), be taken into full account as the new mayor develops a solution. The residents of District II depend on public transportation. We have to get to work. As well, public transportation supports many of the economic and cultural venues in District II and it supports educational pursuits. We have a critical need for public transportation and the current system is woefully inadequate.
CCP: If elected, being a public official will open your day-to-day life to more scrutiny. Say I had been digging around, ...er, say, a fictional reporter, hypothetically, dug around in your curbside garbage cans in search of pill bottles and strip club receipts. What might he find?
GM: I assume you are talking about something like a bong. [Laughter.] No, no drugs or anything like that in my past. My life is actually (now) kind of boring for some. I spent various chunks of time in other countries, during challenging times in their history, so to say I have seen more than my share of excitement is an understatement. Today, I enjoy spending time with my lovely wife. I also spend time working with the youth of Columbia. I know, boring. However, when I am Miami it is a little different. [Laughter.] Oh, and you might find an empty bottle of outstanding rum from Guyana. A well kept secret.
CCP: I canâ€™t believe you actually answered that one. Very informative. Okay, complete this word association exercise. The first thing that pops into your head:
GM: Killer of my youth.
GM: Catch Phrase.
GM: Columbia Politics.
CCP: How could the city effectively draw green businesses to our area?
GM: Just Do it!
CCP: What would you do to fight the gang problem in Columbia?
GM: Just Do it!
CCP: What would you do to revitalize Main Street and help bring business to the million square feet of available office space?
GM: I would form a â€œWorking Group of Planners and Laymenâ€ to develop a concept of what we really want Columbiaâ€™s â€œDowntownâ€ to look like and to be. Then assess our potential resources and develop a plan from there. Publish and promote the plan, using transparency as a tool to maintain interest and support. There are many challenges along the way to development, but as in many cases, challenges are nothing more than opportunities for success.
CCP: Are Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts a truly viable solution to revamp underserved areas of the city? If not, what do you propose?
GM: Columbia cityâ€™s finances seemingly are in such bad shape, that TIF might be irresponsible. We have to get Columbiaâ€™s finances in order first and then develop a vision of what we want to accomplish. Once we do that we will look a TIF in its correct light, a potential tool to support our vision, nothing more.
CCP: You are leading a small covert ops unit embedded deep in enemy territory. Your objective is to scout an enemy munitions depot three miles west of a village that is neutral to the conflict and four miles north of your position. The main roads are heavily patrolled by enemy technicals. The terrain is heavy jungle and will complicate maneuvering. Helicopter transport will arrive (in the same location where you were dropped off) in three days to extract your unit. Your force consists of twenty Army Rangers with small arms, light mortars and a small contingency of heavy machine guns. How will you accomplish your objective, avoid detection and make it to the extraction point?
GM: Planning, leadership, training, rehearsals, intelligence, confidence and execution. We actually trained to scenarios similar to that one.