YWCA CEO and human relations commissioner joins city council race

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lindy garnette

Lindy Garnette was speaking at a meeting of Democracy Greensboro in early May when someone called out: “Lindy Garnette for mayor!” Despite the half-joking endorsement, many people in the room instantly applauded.

Garnette is well known as the CEO of YWCA Greensboro, but she achieved notoriety in April as a member of the Greensboro Police Community Review Board when she spoke out about the case of Jose Charles in an interview with News & Record columnist Susan Ladd. “If we can’t see this one as wrong, we can’t see anything as wrong,” Garnette said. “If this case is swept under the rug, we might as well pack up, go home and call it a day.”

In response to the publication of Garnette’s comments, Human Relations Commission Chair Zac Engle swiftly removed her from the board, relying on legal counsel from City Attorney Tom Carruthers. Soon afterwards, two other members of the review board resigned.

But Garnette did not respond to Engle’s action by retreating in silence; she continued to speak out about the Jose Charles case and what she views as systematic flaws in the city’s process of handling complaints about alleged police abuse.

Today, Garnette announces a run, not for mayor, but for an at-large seat on Greensboro City Council.

“We’ve heard a lot of people talk about transparency and accountability, and I have been out front on those issues,” Garnette told Triad City Beat. “I think reasonableness is important, too. I think I’m a pretty reasonable person. Through talking with others you can often come up with the best solution. One of the things I’m good at is listening. Even if you can’t always solve the problem, being listened to often gives people a feeling of validation. I don’t feel like people feel like they’re being listened to now.”

Garnette said the experience of being removed from the police community review board helped firm up her resolve to run for city council.

“What that experience did is kind of let folks know that if my integrity is at stake I will stand up,” Garnette said. “I’m not out there looking for a fight, but what that lets people know is that when it comes to right and wrong I will do the right thing.

“I found it sad that that got so much attention from the African-American community,” Garnette added. “That tells me their expectations are so low that a white person will speak out for them. It shouldn’t be a big deal. I would like for it to be commonplace for white people to do the right thing.”

Garnette said her daughter turns 18 this month, and she plans to file for election on the same day her daughter registers to vote at the Guilford County Board of Elections.

Garnette is the third member of the human relations commission to declare her intention to run for one of the three at-large seats, with Michelle Kennedy and Dave Wils announcing their plans earlier. Incumbents Yvonne Johnson and Marikay Abuzuaiter have also indicated they will seek reelection. Kennedy and Wils are also solid progressives who have been engaged with issues of police accountability, and Garnette acknowledged there’s a possibility that the three could end up splitting the progressive vote, preventing any one of them from winning a seat on council.

“Yeah, that is a concern,” Garnette said. “We are all three progressive. It’s incumbent on all of us to articulate for the voters where we differ and where our different strengths are.”

Garnette holds a campaign kickoff at the Public, located in the Morehead Foundry on Spring Garden Street on July 24 from 6 to 9 p.m.