Clewiston - Starting out as a farm worker, going on to become the first Black female police officer for the Clewiston Police Department, and then a Hendry County Commissioner, Janet B. Taylor, was nominated as an Inspirational Woman of Hendry County.
Well known for her more than 50 years of community service, and having received the Congressional Award for Women’s History Month from Senator Mario Diaz-Balart in March 2018, Janet B. Taylor has long been focused on developing projects that improve the community and quality of life for the people of Hendry County.
“Being able to empower people to a better quality of life has brought so much value to my life,” Taylor commented. “I am extremely passionate about helping people, I like getting results for difficult situations.”
She was born and raised in Clewiston, and has lived there her entire life, “I grew up in the sugarcane fields, on a small farm, Beardsley Farm,” she said. “I grew up chasing rabbits, working in agriculture, and showering in communal baths and using outhouses.”
She graduated from Harlem Academy, while pregnant. She was not only a teenage mom but a single mom, and then while raising her children, she worked a variety of jobs.
“Statistics would show that what I’ve been so blessed to accomplish isn’t possible,” she said. “Farm Worker, Insurance Agent, School Officer Laison, and later I became the first Black Female Police Officer for Clewiston Police Dept,” said Taylor. “I retired as a police officer after 12 years and went on to serve as a Hendry County Commissioner for 22 years.”
Throughout the years, Taylor has been a part of so many events that changed and impacted Hendry County for the better. From facilitating the building of a Health Department on the East side of Hendry County, to having an auditorium named in her honor, Taylor is a force to be reckoned with.
In the early 70’s she was a part of the housing strike, “This strike led to us forming the Harlem Tenants association which resulted in a 126 unit property that provided fair housing for the residents. I continue to serve on the Board of Directors for Harlem Tenants today.”
“In 1974, I was the plaintiff in the lawsuit against Hendry County District in regards to desegregation, which is still an active case today,” Taylor said.
She is also the CEO of Glades Lives Matter, which is an organization that advocates empowerment issues for the Glades area.
“I run Glades Lives Matter and actively serve on the Board of Directors for Harlem Tenants Association and Florida Community Health Center,” Taylor said. She has been with the Harlem Tenant’s Association for 51 years, and the Florida Community Health Center for 43 years.
Taylor has 4 children, 10 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren, all of whom have sought out diverse lives with careers in everything from the medical field, playwriting, education, and even law enforcement.
“My family is my primary assignment. Family is of the utmost importance of things I value,” she explained. “I raised my children as a single mom, and am quite appreciative of how they turned out.”
When asked about any inspirational women she has known personally, Taylor said, “I’ve been so blessed to have dynamic women in my life to inspire and mentor me. The most influential woman in my life was my Grandmother, Elizabeth Williams, who raised me. She had no formal education, however, she drilled into me the importance of education and helping others.
Taylor went on, “One of the other women that has influenced me is Dr. Effie Greer, an educator. She mentored me in high school, and I traveled with her as a teenager.”
“Florida B. Thomas was my one of my teachers in High School,” Taylor added. “She mentored and directed me in school, community events, political adventures, and life. She was dear friend to me until she passed away a few years ago.”
Currently, Taylor is self-proclaimed to be semi-retired, but in actuality she continues to be as active and hardworking as ever.
At this time, she says she is most passionate about health care, “Especially as we deal with this pandemic. It is important for the community to be educated with safety and the importance of the vaccine.” she went on to explain, “The community that I live in is at the greatest risk due to underlying conditions that are prevalent in that population. We face too great of a percentage that refuse to be vaccinated due to fear/trust, misinformation, and lack of information.”
Her current list of projects is endless. Taylor is helping manage various beautification projects from the development of a community garden, to the placement of benches in the Harlem Tree Park, and more.
When asked what advice she has to give to other women, she said, “I would like to advise any woman that may be reading this to never be detoured by obstacles. I am a living example that all things are possible.’I graduated at 16 years old as valedictorian of my graduating class.” She added, “Never give up, never give in. Make a liar of all your adversaries. Give life your all, and always help people. Your value comes from the people you’ve help to succeeed!”