Norman O. Taylor will be taking on one of the most visible jobs in town when he moves to Baltimore next month to be president of the United Way of Central Maryland, but it's more than his job that will make him easy to spot.
"He's a very big man -- you'll be taken by his size," said Richard Sullivan, chief executive of Ferris, Baker, Watts Inc. and co-chair of the search committee that chose Mr. Taylor out of more than 100 candidates.
"He's very warm, and he brings people to him very quickly. He clearly was a person who can communicate very well. That was one of the attractive things about him."
Mr. Taylor joined the United Way in 1968 after a tour with Ford Motor Co. in Detroit. "It's better than building an alternator," he said. "There's nothing better than when you can see a difference that can be made."
Mr. Taylor has spent the last three years as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, but he spent 15 years before that serving the United Way in the Washington area.
From 1974 to 1984, he was associate executive director of the United Way National Capital Area, which includes Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
After that 5-year assignment, Mr. Taylor was a senior vice president at United Way's national headquarters in Alexandria, Va., from 1984 until 1988, except for a temporary stint as head of the United Way of Greater Memphis in Tennessee.
"He wanted to be the head of a United Way," Mr. Sullivan said. "And he wanted to come back to the East Coast."
"It's like coming home to home territory," Mr. Taylor said.
The 48-year-old father of two, whose wife, Beatrice, is an art education professor at California State-Los Angeles , said he hasn't yet decided where he will live in the Baltimore area. He takes over his job Feb. 1 from Alan S. Cooper, who is stepping down to work on special projects before retiring. Mr. Cooper's retirement had been expected.
Mr. Sullivan said the new president's charge includes emphasizing three issues that are already special interests of the local United Way -- literacy, substance abuse prevention, and housing.
Mr. Taylor will also bring with him a special interest in the fight against AIDS.
He said the Los Angeles United Way funded some anti-AIDS efforts, but his major contribution there was to bring together disparate groups already involved in the cause and help them work better together.
In an age of limited resources for social service spending, he said he'll have to apply the same skills of coalition building, volunteer training and outreach to a range of issues here.
"The key thing is openness; the United Way needs to reflect the diversity of the community," said Mr. Taylor.
"In Los Angeles, "we made it more inclusive," he said. "We invited people in who had never been involved with the United Way before. . . . "There are 700 charitable organizations in Baltimore. The United Way can't fund them all, but it can put together a collaborative effort."