Taylor — Democrat for County Commission
Democratic hopeful and trial attorney Paul Taylor needs your vote to win a seat on the Jefferson County Commission. To get your vote, he is campaigning on a platform to rid the commission of “shrill and strident factionalism,” which, he says, has been detrimental to the effectiveness and public image of the commission.
This is Taylor’s first time running for political office. He says this gives him a fresh and neutral view of government. “I have no axe to grind, no special interest,” said Taylor during an interview at the Chronicle. “I just want to do what’s best for the citizens of the county.”
What’s best for the citizens of Jefferson County, says Taylor, is enacting creative zoning and growth strategies to deal with the ongoing development challenges in Jefferson County.
“Zoning is sometimes a dirty word, but I think it’s an important tool to accomplish that goal,” says Taylor. “If I had to put myself in a box, I’d call myself a smart growther.”
Taylor expands on his growth vision for Jefferson County, saying his commitment to “smart growth” means balancing arguments for slow or no growth with arguments for growth and clustering future development around the pre-existing cities and towns of Jefferson County. “I have a farm behind me,” says Taylor. “I love what I see when I look outside, but you can’t blow up the bridges, you can’t build a wall around the county.”
He continues, saying “I think we want to preserve the historic sites, open space and the agricultural aspects of our community, while accommodating the inevitable growth that will occur.
“I think we want to preserve historic sites, open space and the agricultural aspects of our community, while accommodating the inevitable growth that will occur. The way to do that is to concentrate growth around the existing developed areas, the towns the cities, to the extent that it can be.”
Taylor is single, as are all the other Democratic candidates running for the Shepherdstown County Commission seat. He grew up in Alexandria, Va., in a deeply Catholic family. He says his father was the household defender of the faith, and Sunday mass was a requirement. His father was also a World War II Navy vet and career FBI agent, working cases under Herbert Hoover. Taylor keeps a photograph on his desk in his law office of his father shaking hands with the notorious FBI director. His father died a few years ago, but his mother is still living in the Alexandria home in which Paul Taylor was raised.
Taylor says his national political affiliation doesn’t have much of an influence on his local politics, which are motivated by his personal experiences. “It just so happens that those experiences and views fall within the ambit of where the Democratic party is going,” says Taylor.
Taylor has been a practicing trial lawyer in the Eastern Panhandle for 19 years, spending the last 11 years living in Shepherdstown. He earned his law degree from George Mason University in 1987, he said.
Taylor may be remembered for his successful prosecution of a large, class action lawsuit brought against the Maytag corporation after it shuttered the Dixie-Narco vending machine plant in Ranson in 1991. Charles Town and Ranson are still feeling the effects of that closure. Workers at the plant said they were explicitly told by Maytag management that the Ranson plant would not close, according to reports published by the Associated Press during the trial.
The case started out with 16 litigants seeking lost wages, but by the time it came to trial in Charles Town four years later (the case made a detour to Charleston and the state Supreme Court) Taylor was representing more than 800 former employees seeking over half-a-billion dollars in damages. An AP report from July 28, 1995, two days into jury selection, had Taylor predicting the trial would last up to six months.
Taylor’s prediction was way off.
Four days later, Maytag settled out of court, paying out $16.5 million to the workers while admitting no wrongdoing. Officials from Maytag told the press they couldn’t get an impartial jury at the County Courthouse. Taylor says they settled because he had evidence showing that Maytag never intended to continue operating the Dixie-Narco plant in Ranson.
Taylor is currently running in a three-way primary race for the Democratic county ticket. He says he’s been getting out in the community to campaign, in addition to sitting down with members of the local media to discuss his campaign. He also says his campaign is self-funded. “I don’t want any money . . . thank God I’m in a position to do that.”
When asked about the nature of leadership in a republican democracy such as ours, Taylor responds pensively.
“The answer probably depends on the nature of the body. Some people are going to put me into office,” says Taylor. “But while a certain segment is putting me in office, I am representing the entire county.”