By Kendra Clark | Photos by Amanda Mack
SINCE qualifications began, the question that everyone has been asking is “Who is Tyrisha Davis?” She says you can just call her T.L and she is ready to unify the people of Savannah.
Davis was born in Iowa, but she has set up roots in Savannah. She set up home here with her husband and opened a transportation business that helps both the elderly and the general public. She volunteers her time with organizations that serve and feed the unhoused population, as well as organizations that work with youth in the community.
She describes herself as an “old soul” and someone with a caregiver’s hand, which she believes is what Savannah needs.
We spoke with Davis to learn more about her and her campaign to be Savannah’s mayor.
What made you decide to get into politics? Why now and why the position of mayor?
Because I am needed. I know I have what it takes to help us to become a better city. I am a people person. I’m a loving person. I’m a caregiving person. I was to see greatness and everybody being successful.
It is time for young people to start stepping up and stepping out. We are the future. It is time to get updated. Savannah is in need of change. We are behind on a lot of things. We as a city are still running on an older, outdated mindset. It’s kinda like we’re still living in the 1960s and 1970s around here, but we are in 2023. Change is here and change is good.
One of the biggest criticisms of the current City Council is just how adversarial it’s become. How can this be addressed?
The solution I think would be having brand new people. We need brand spanking new, because it’s enough with the dog and pony show. Our city shouldn’t be represented like that. We need to have more respect for one another and that’s one thing that we’re gonna have to unlearn. We have to go back to the basics as far as treating people the way you want to be treated, having the thought “I really want to be respected so I shouldn’t be doing that to him or her.” We have to enforce that, even if we have to put up a big sign as soon as you walk in as a reminder.
Thinking of the things you want to happen for the city, if you are elected mayor, if you could snap your fingers and make any policy go into place without any opposition, what would you want to make happen?
Togetherness with our people because we don’t understand how powerful we would and can be if we come together. But if we’re talking issues, it would have to be the homeless. I have a very, very warm heart for that issue. It’s really sad to see. They are in that position because of things that transpired but they’re still human and we can’t forget about them.
One guy told me he just needed mental health care and therapy. He said, “We just need a place we can go. We just need a little push.” We do have resources and services. I am actually going to be working with the director at The Dive, an organization that feeds the homeless here in Savannah and they also help to send them back home. On the news, I think it was around September 6, the mayor stated how they had sent like 200 people home and come to find out, it was the nonprofit organization that sent him home. I’m like why is he taking the credit? The director is the one contacting donors and getting donations to make that happen.
The other thing I think would be great is putting trades back into schools so we are setting our children up to where they are certified when they get out of high school. We have a lot of people that go to college and I’m down for that, but it’s hard when you’re done because some people don’t even get to use their degrees. So now you have all this money, you’re in debt, and you don’t even have anything to fall back on. So I think it would be very beneficial to put trades back into schools.
Crime is always a big topic at election time. What do you think is the root cause of crime and how do we address it?
I would like to implement 'squash our beef' mediator units for gangs or for families and friends that have been feuding. We would have to do it in a way that is discreet so that people don’t feel lesser or they don’t feel degraded. That way we can help change the dynamics from negative to positive. I think that is much needed and is also going to help our officers and make their job easier. If we implement a mediator, we can really have people come together, because that’s my main focus here. We have to come together.
Tourism is huge in Savannah. We’ve seen a lot of development due to tourism. How do we as a city balance tourism with the needs of the residents?
It has been balanced. I was speaking with one of the workers at the Women’s Business Center and she was telling me how they make all these billions of dollars from the tours and having the small businesses be able to make revenue off that. I would also like to implement a trolley for the tourists. We have the trolleys doing the history stuff but as far as transportation with getting around town. If you want to go to Tybee, my business will take them there, but that is a need.
We have seen the cost of housing rise, whether it’s renting, buying, or people being priced out of their homes. What is your solution to address affordable housing?
Number one, it has to be to roll back the millage tax rate that has just skyrocketed. Also the City has stated that they want to be able to build 3,500 homes within the next 10 years, but there has to be a way to cut down the time on that. I want to bring that down to at least 3 to 5 years for affordable homes being built versus a whole 10 years. I know there’s a way we can get that done.
I also feel that it would be helpful if we sell city bonds. This is going to give the Savannahians their own currency. It will be the first in the United States. Let’s be the first city to do this because nobody is doing it. It’s kind of similar to a digital currency like Bitcoin. I think that’s something that we need to do because everything is digital now. It would go straight into the account of the treasurer and we would make it tax free so there’s no tax. This would allow our people to invest in the city. I think this will help offset our issues with housing.
I think having a city garden will also help offset our issues with housing. We have community gardens but what about a city garden? It’s time we start eating together.
The issue of homelessness goes hand in hand with affordable housing. I know you’ve spoken a bit about it already, but what can the city do to address homelessness?
I want to see about all these abandoned homes and buying them and turning them into a home where you’re able to really start getting yourself together. I really want to focus on helping them with entrepreneurship. Let’s help them with doing their own thing versus trying to work at someone elses’s job. I think that would be very good for them.
Are you familiar with PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) progam that has been proposed for SCAD? The idea is that since SCAD is a nonprofit they don’t pay property taxes. The PILOT program states that each student would be charged a fee each quarter, maybe $50-60, and then all that money is given to the city to help pay for the public resources that they utilize such as roads and emergency services. What are your thoughts of this program.
I am not familiar with the program but that would be awesome. I’m all for it.
What else would you like to let the voters know?
We need more small business funding. We are so behind on that.
I would like to get with the police department. I see that they did a survey back in 2021 and they were stating that they don’t have enough personal protection. They need more materials and equipment. They were dissatisfied with the level of training, staffing, and promotional opportunities. I would like to give them that promotion because they are risking their lives every day. I would also like to see promotions for our teachers.
I would like to see an amusement park or carnival for our children. There’s not a lot of things for our kids to do and that’s why a lot of our kids are ending up in trouble.
We also need to change the time for school bus pick up. I would like to make that mandatory. This is for the safety of the children, to prevent kidnapping and trafficking, as well as prevent the children from being scared because they are out there in the dark without adult protection.
I would also like to make the city bright, full of light. This is a tourist city and you mean to tell me that we’re still in the dark around here. It’s horrible in some spots, especially if someone is wearing black, you can’t see them. It’s not good.
I would also like to give our family vacations for people who cannot afford it. We need to implement more bike lanes. That’s how a lot of people travel to work so we need more of that.
We also need to increase funding for our schools, from preschool to college. We need to invest in the academics, the arts, and in sports. This will give Savannah students the leading edge in today’s economy.
I feel like today’s problem is coming from yesterday’s solutions. We need visible improvements where we are able to deliver results and communicate effectively. I just want people to know that I am going to be transparent, proactive, ethical, effective, and accountable. I want them to know that I am approachable and I have a desire to understand their concerns. I am a critical think and I plan to have an open door policy.
To learn more about T.L. Davis or to contact her campaign team, go to davisformayorsav.com.
Like our City Council election coverage? Help us do more of this kind of work by making a donation.