My name is Grant Saylor. I am running to serve on Bellevue Council in the upcoming election. I was born and raised in Bellevue and still have the majority of my extended family residing here. My wife Lisa, my high school sweetheart, and I both attended Northgate High School and have two children who have graduated from there and our youngest in 9th grade.
Lisa and I have owned our home on North Balph Ave for almost 14 years. We moved back to Bellevue to be close to family and to take advantage of living in a great small community that was “so close to everything” and the familiarity of sending our children to a school where we know the majority of the teachers because we also had them…
I have spent the majority of my adult life in the service industry. I spent five years with Aramark as the Assistant Catering Director at Duquesne University and the Executive Chef at Chatham College in the late 80s- early 90s after my 3 years in the army. From there I moved into a management role managing all of the Food Service operations for PNC in the downtown market. From there I moved to Eastern PA to take over additional responsibilities in Delaware, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
I would be happy to share my entire resume with anyone interested but I pride myself on the fact that I have continued to grow in my professional career. I have managed markets in KY, OH, WV, PA, NY, NJ, DE, Washington DC, MD and VA for various national companies with direct responsibility for budgets in excess of 15 million dollars. I have spent the last 7 years as a District Manager for Starbucks Coffee Company and am responsible for 25 stores in OH, WV and PA.
I have a proven track record of developing and maintaining client relationships both within and outside the organizations with which I do business. I am directly responsible for creating and implementing plans to support execution of key initiatives to achieve both operational excellence and business results. I am a strong communicator and believe that transparency is vital to any relationship whether it is personal, professional or political.
As I stated earlier, I will be happy to provide a copy of my resume to anyone who would like one. Let us move on to the questions at hand.
What is my vision for Bellevue? – My vision is for Bellevue to be looked up to as a community that is well balanced – A strong business district and a strong school district that create a vibrant community. In order to have either of those you must have a place where businesses can thrive and families feel welcomed and safe. This community is a hidden gem in Pittsburgh and needs strong leadership and vision to bring it out of the past and into the present. Walk down the street on any evening or weekend past the closed down shops and boarded up store fronts and then hop in your car and drive to Lawrenceville, Point Breeze, Sewickley or any of the other communities that are thriving or on the rebound and you will see my vision for Bellevue. No, I do not want us to be a carbon copy of any of those places, I want us to create the uniqueness that is and should be Bellevue. Shops, restaurants, live music, theatre, and arts; the things that attract young families and tax payers to a community, an active community where residents can live, worship, shop like the sign on the boulevard says…
What do I see as Bellevue’s strengths and weaknesses? – Let me start with the strengths because I strongly feel that they outnumber the weaknesses. Bellevue is, as I have always said, the best location in which one can live in the Pittsburgh area. It is “minutes from everywhere” with easy access to 65, 79, 279. It is less 5 miles from downtown with great access to public transportation. The homes have character and the streets, though in need of repair, still have small town charm that is inviting as people discover Bellevue. Lincoln Avenue is a mere shadow of what it once was but still holds tremendous potential. There are beautiful storefronts begging to invite patrons through their doors. There is a public library with a beautiful, yet underused park, the local football field, a post office, numerous places of worship and quite a few well established businesses that have managed to weather the storm.
Now I will touch on a few of the weaknesses. The biggest weakness that I see in the borough today is the growing number of rental properties in relationship to the single family dwellings. Having too high a percentage of rental properties without adequate code enforcement on the properties creates an environment where property values diminish. Properties that are not kept up to code attract a transient clientele that do nothing to develop “community”. I am not advocating that we need to create ordinances but we do need to enforce the ones that are in place. We need to allocate adequate resources to code enforcement to make sure that properties are being maintained.
The current state of Bellevue has not made the business district an attractive spot for a young entrepreneur to open up shop. Lincoln Avenue is in need of a major revitalization. There is a tremendous amount of grant money available for communities that want to develop. The current council has not fully taken advantage of these funds or aggressively sought out the services of the myriad of organizations that specialize in urban revitalization.
Another weakness that I will mention is that there seems to be an increasing drug problem in the community. This is not isolated to Bellevue but it continues to be a growing concern that must be addressed.
As for struggles – I think that the biggest struggle that the borough faces is that people, for whatever reason, are not getting involved in the political process. There has been a lack of transparency in the local government that has made the residents feel as though their voice is not heard even when they do speak. The community needs to have confidence in their elected officials to make decisions in their best interest.
There has, however, been tremendous groundswell in recent months due to the visibility and unbiased council meeting videos being made available through social media. As more and more people become educated on the issues that the borough faces the more they bring ideas to the table in conversation. In order to resolve any of the aforementioned weaknesses or struggles, Bellevue must have a council that is willing to tackle the “big rocks” and lay out a long term strategic plan involving groups that specialize in small town revitalization. There is much to be learned from some other towns out there that have gone through similar transformations. We need to have a committee that will go and research and ask how they overcame their opportunities and act on the knowledge that they glean.
To answer a question that I know will come up, I am in favor of alcohol in Bellevue. I am not in favor of nuisance bars on every street corner and there are checks and balances in place through the LCB to make sure that it does not get to that place. I am, however in favor of being able to attract nice restaurants or a sports bar or brew-pub to Bellevue to fill some of the vacant storefronts in town. It is a topic that needs to be researched and there need to guidelines for the type and quantity of licenses made available. The referendum cannot hit the ballot for another 2 years. The Bellevue council needs to support this in order for the business district to be what it can and should be. Restaurants attract people who spend money. People who spend money also patronize local shops. The notion that if there are restaurants that can serve alcohol in Bellevue it will increase crime and accidents is a scare tactic. There are many studies out there that show that there are fewer alcohol related accidents in wet towns than dry towns. We already have BYOB locations in Bellevue. How many arrests and/or problems have arisen from these establishments? Is alcohol the cure all for Bellevue? Absolutely not. Would it play an important role in revitalizing our business district? Yes.
The bottom line is we need a plan. I am committed to working with the available resources to develop that plan and to develop and acquire the funding and resources to execute the plan. It will not be an easy process but it can be done.
Lastly I would like to speak to how the school board and the council must work together. In order to strengthen the community and the school district it is going to take an open line of communication between both Bellevue and Avalon council and the Northgate School Board. There need to be regular quarterly meetings between all parties. There needs to be an understanding of each entity’s budgeting process and what resources can or need to be shared between the three. It is only through strong community and strong education that we will grow as a region.
In closing I would like to say that I believe in Bellevue. I believe that there are great people in this borough that come from deep rooted families in the community. This is not the Bellevue that we grew up in but it is the Bellevue that our children are growing up in. As a husband, father, friend, neighbor, homeowner I ask that you simply make an educated decision when it comes time for elections. I firmly believe that it doesn’t matter what letter is beside your name. What matters is the conviction in ones words and deeds and the belief that you are in an elected position for the good of all not some.
I would be happy to make myself available to speak with anyone. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if anyone would like to chat. Thank you for taking the time to get to know the candidates..