A New Vision for Omaha: A Class of ’08 Alum Runs for Mayor
A look at Taylor Royal's Mayoral Candidacy
February 13, 2017
It’s fairly common for students to choose one of their peers as most likely to be president–but what about most likely to be mayor? This week, the Flightline takes an in-depth look at one Skutt Catholic graduate who is seeking the highest office in our city.
Taylor Royal: Then To Now
The upbringing of a mayoral candidate
In 2004, a young Taylor Royal started high school at Skutt Catholic. Today, he wants to be the next mayor of Omaha.
Like many, Royal came to Skutt Catholic without knowing many people. “I went to Trinity Christian, which is now known as Lifegate,” Royal said. “I only knew two people coming here, and I wasn’t very close with either of them.”
Royal faced the same challenges as every other freshman did and still does: finding friends and getting involved. Like most students, Royal eventually found his niche: sports, especially soccer.
“I was always involved in soccer from when I was four years old up through college,” Royal said, “But joining soccer [at Skutt] was huge for me.”
Getting involved in these activities helped Royal find his close knit group of friends. One of these friends includes current Skutt Catholic history teacher Mr. James Justice.
“I’ve known Taylor since I was a sophomore in high school,” Justice said. “ He always enjoyed talking politics; when I heard he was running I wasn’t surprised at all.”
“Taylor was a strong leader on the soccer team,” Skutt Catholic principal and former soccer coach Mr. Meyers said. “He worked very hard and lead them to two state championships.”
His legacy doesn’t end there. Royal holds a spot on the school’s Wall of Fame as an all-class B first team selection, as well as an all-state second team selection for soccer. An auxiliary soccer field at the top of the parking lot also bears his family’s name.
Sports weren’t the only things keeping him busy during high school. “Most nights if I didn’t have soccer, I would be working in the frozen or dairy section at Hy-Vee from four to ten p.m.,” Royal said. “I was always working; it had become my life. It was either soccer or work.”
Royal left high school prepared to tackle the world’s challenges. “Skutt really does prepare you,” Royal said. “The leadership and community at this school is incredible.” Following graduation from Skutt Catholic, Royal studied accounting and finance at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
After receiving his Master’s of Science in Accounting from Southern Methodist University, Royal moved back to Omaha. He currently works for Northwestern Mutual as a CPA. On February 1, at age 27, he filed his papers to officially become a candidate for mayor of Omaha. He could become Skutt Catholic’s first alumnus to hold a public office, even before his ten year high school reunion.
A Fresh Face With a Hopeful Message
Royal’s goals lofty, though not out of reach
When I first heard that a 27-year-old, who aims to build an NFL stadium on Omaha’s riverfront, was running for mayor of Omaha, one thought came to my mind: Icetown.
Icetown, the fictitious indoor ice hockey arena project undertaken by teenage mayor Ben Wyatt, is the focus of at least one episode of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.”
The parallels between the two were uncanny. Royal is a young political novice running for mayor with a goal of building an arena, the size and purpose of which would be unprecedented for a city such as ours.
Royal is a Skutt Catholic graduate, so we sat down with him to learn more about the policies he plans to implement as mayor. I entered the interview a complete skeptic and emerged, though not totally converted, with a certain confidence in Royal’s policies and his status as a serious candidate.
When I began to question Royal about his plans and policies – like privatizing some city services, cutting taxes, and building an entertainment district with an NFL stadium – his responses showed thorough planning, attention to detail, and most of all, a passion for improving our city.
That passion stems from the time he spent growing up in Omaha, but also from the years he spent in Dallas, Texas, where he gained some ideas for how he could improve his hometown.
“It’s a whole different animal down there [in Dallas]. Very young, very energetic, very vibrant, and Omaha used to be like that,” Royal said. “Millennials have left simply because the jobs they are trained for aren’t available here. The things younger people aspire to be someday, such as a CFO, aren’t in Omaha, and it is a problem for us keeping a good economic environment.”
Royal believes that he can make Omaha more attractive to businesses and young professionals. He plans moves such as eliminating the restaurant tax over four years, improving street maintenance, and rolling back parking meter fees to encourage Omahans to patronize local restaurants and other businesses.
In order to improve street maintenance without increasing taxes or the public works budget, Royal plans to put road maintenance projects out to bid and shrink the city’s public works staff and inventory.
By contracting with private firms, the city can tap into the infrastructure and efficiencies of large firms to save money, Royal believes. This would also eliminate the future burden of paying out pensions for some public works employees.
Additionally, Royal wants to see more development along the city’s riverfront. “It’s such a natural place for development, and we’ve done so little to develop that land. We built a $40 million pedestrian bridge that [currently] leads to nowhere.”
A crucial piece of Royal’s entertainment development plan is an NFL stadium with a capacity of around 70,000 people. “The Huskers draw around 100,000 people every Saturday in the fall,” says Royal. Royal hopes to attract a similar crowd to Omaha’s riverfront on Sundays.
Royal hopes to pitch Omaha to a team that is failing in terms of game attendance, and offer them a stadium and the fanbase of Omaha. Royal expects this to bring serious revenue into the city’s economy, citing the $250 million that Husker games add to Lincoln’s economy on game days.
For stadium funding, Royal plans to reach out to private investors as well as use public funding.
Though his goals are certainly lofty, I left the interview with a better understanding of Royal’s policies and gained respect for him as a serious mayoral candidate.