Rev. Calvin Taylor Skinner has experience working with faith, non-profit, corporate, education, and policy leaders to address complex matters facing our communities both locally and nationally including: education, community development, and arts & culture. He gained unique skills building stronger communities through his work with Brotherly Love Urban Youth Services, Inc. (Philadelphia), Monumental Baptist Church (Philadelphia), Skinner Leadership Institute (Washington, DC), Rev. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook (Former US Ambassador for International Religious Freedom), InSight Initiative (Washington, DC and New York), Mount Zion Church (Knoxville, TN), and as a co-founder of One Knox Legacy Coalition – a city-wide initiative focused on civic engagement. He attended Blue Grass Elementary, Gresham & Whittle Springs Middle Schools, Fulton High School and the University of Tennessee – all in Knoxville. After graduating from UT, he earned a Master of Divinity degree from Palmer Seminary of Eastern University (Pennsylvania). He returned to Knoxville with over 15 years of experience in project management, leadership development and diversity initiatives in the entertainment, education, non-profit, policy and faith-based communities.
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing businesses in Knoxville today? How do you plan to address this issue if elected?
One of the biggest challenges for businesses is addressing diversity. Ensuring businesses expand the representation of the workforce and clientele. In doing so, this will secure a larger pool of qualified candidates for a stronger workforce and expand the reach in the marketplace. As mayor I would direct more resources to expand capacity for black and brown businesses, and continue to support minority owned businesses. Additionally, I plan to harness the expertise of business and community leaders in Knoxville, and beyond m, to expand the social-economic vibrancy of Knoxville for all. My business networks in Philadelphia and Washington, DC, are eager to discuss opportunities to partner with Knoxville. My ultimate vision includes championing Knoxville as the culture hub of the Appalachian region, as well as, being a model city for public/private partnerships, jobs & jobs training, affordable living, and the arts & culture preservation.
What do you see as the biggest infrastructure needs within the city? How would you address these as mayor?
Expanding public transportation around Knoxville is a need for the area. Residents need access as far out into the county to get to their jobs— jobs that offer living wages. There are models for expanding public and resources we can go after for projects. For example, offering bus passes for youth during the summer who have jobs or attending programs would alleviate a barrier for many and a smart investment for the city’s future.
Among the challenges faced by Knoxville is the state of schools within the city limits, particularly in its core. Although funding schools is the responsibility of Knox County government, what role do you believe the city mayor should play in education?
As mayor I would continue to be one of the top advocates for stronger schools in our county. In the role of mayor, I would facilitate partnerships with nonprofits to ensure young people are engaged in life-skills development jobs training, and mentoring initiatives. This would include the current partners and developing other organizations in Knoxville and nationally to join us in our efforts. While in Philadelphia, I belonged to a group of clergy who partnered with schools to offer these same programs with much success. The community’s involvement was critical to its success and this is what I would champion as mayor. I foresee building upon the partners I have cultivated as a community organizer here in Knoxville to galvanize around creative approaches to addressing the education gap in our city.