Salisbury Council candidates list reducing crime and hiring new City Manager as top city priorities – Salisbury Post

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By Natalie Anderson
[email protected]

SALISBURY – Candidates for the Salisbury City Council race discussed their perceptions of the city’s top priorities, including reducing crime and hiring a city manager, in a virtual forum on Thursday.

Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, Salisbury Post and Catawba College have organized a candidates’ forum for the mayoral race and the Salisbury Council race. Dr Josh Smicker, Chair of Catawba College’s Communications Program, moderated the event and questions were submitted to the Post. Each candidate had only one minute to respond.

Candidates for four board seats include incumbents David Post and Tamara Sheffield as well as the Reverend Anthony Smith, Jonathan Barbee, Nalini Joseph, Jessica Cloward and Harry McLaughlin Jr.

Post, Joseph and Sheffield cited the selection of a new city manager as the most pressing issue for the city. Post said that this person will serve as “city CEO” and will likely be longer than department heads and council members, and should be someone who serves all citizens.

Joseph said a new director will need a track record of implementing the council’s vision for the city, the ability to empower employees and strong negotiation and budgeting skills.

Sheffield said the city manager touches every resident of the city and the budget is a major achievement. She also cited the need to ensure the overall safety of residents, which includes taking charge of the Salisbury Fire Department.

Other candidates cited reducing crime as the top priority, with McLaughlin drawing on his own experience as a US Secret Service officer for 15 years. He called for increased visibility of agents to start bridging the mistrust gap within the community, which he has seen operating in the McLaughlin grocery store. The visibility of officers increases the likelihood that people will report minor and minor crimes that could lead to more violent and dangerous crimes, he said.

Cloward, who is the broker for Lantern Realty, said reducing crime affects economic growth. She called for an increase in the number of officers, neighborhood watch programs and more safety programs and education for the public.

Barbee said tackling socio-economic barriers can help reduce crime. Further economic development can increase income that can be used to fund more officers, he said.

Smith said city council gives direction to the city manager, but the council currently needs direction to tackle violent crime. Part of its platform is the implementation of a ‘deep and factual’ violence healing model, which is an ‘organic and innovative way’ to address the underlying root causes of violence that has been successful in places across the country.

Applicants were asked about priorities for downtown development and additional support for business owners.

Cloward attributed Salisbury Inc.’s downtown collaboration with the city to help build bridges between business owners, and cited the need for more of this.

Post said the downtown area has more than 20 vacancies and the city needs to continue its streetscape and revitalization efforts to attract investment in these buildings. He said the Empire Hotel redevelopment was important because the building anchors an entire block. He expressed pride in seeing more downtown buildings purchased by local residents.

McLaughlin echoed the Empire Hotel’s potential to attract more people, but said the downtown rent rate must be lower for newbie business owners to settle in.

Barbee also said downtown buildings should be filled to increase the tax base and that Bell Tower Green Park needs a flag pole. He cited a need for different types of businesses in Salisbury, including near the Mid-Carolina Regional Airport.

Joseph also spoke of the need to create more high-tech companies and retain local talent from students.

Sheffield called on all residents to shop downtown and cited the promise of future development of the Downtown Main Street Plan, which aims to make the street more pedestrian-friendly. She called for more development for pedestrians and cyclists.

Smith said an idea for Alissa Redmond, owner of South Main Book Company, was to create a downtown “discovery spot” in a vacant building. Smith said the suggestion reflects a greater need for cultural diversity, which necessitates a hospitable environment for salespeople and other business owners without traditional brick-and-mortar spaces.

For another question, candidates were asked how to involve young people in municipal government.

Smith, a popular organizer and activist, suggested a “people’s assembly” with city leaders to discuss issues facing the community.

Sheffield cited the city’s Chit, Chat and Chew initiative which began before the pandemic, where council members could speak with residents in the form of town hall. She called for more people to get involved in city councils and commissions.

Post said civic responsibility starts with going out and voting.

McLaughlin said there are residents in the community who don’t feel the city’s resources and opportunities are theirs. He said council members should chat with residents and provide them with places they want to be and invest.

Joseph echoed the need for council members to go out into the community. Barbee too, who said in his opening remarks that he wanted to help bring the people educated at Rowan-Salisbury schools back to the city.

Cloward suggested a specific chamber of commerce for young adults who don’t know how to understand a budget or how to work in government departments.

The candidates also discussed their leadership style and the reasons for their candidacy.

Joseph, district administrator for the Guardian ad Litem program, said she was used to dealing with “very sad cases” involving children who have been abused and working to keep them safe and permanent. She recognized her ability to work collaboratively and negotiate for the common good and during times of strong emotion.

As a real estate broker, Cloward said she helps people with “the biggest deals of their lives.” She called herself a leader who takes the time to think and pray to avoid emotional decisions.

Barbee took credit for being a good listener who tries to think outside the box.

Smith presented himself as a divergent thinker who knows how to take ideas that may seem different and find a meaningful solution for everyone. He recalled a time in the United States Navy when he was one of a dozen people on top of a submarine that began to dive as a piece of equipment was lost at sea. Once the ship resurfaced, the captain still wanted to retrieve the material, which required the team to come together to work with the available materials to retrieve it in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

As a former Secret Service officer, McLaughlin said most of what he would use as an example could be classified. He spoke of being the head of a cybersecurity task force, which involved bringing together local law enforcement, federal agencies and financial institutions. McLaughlin said his job always required strong communication and planning of what might happen in order to avoid mistakes that would put him before the US Senate for testimony.

Sheffield said she had “the tenacity and energy” not to give up and brought a balanced business approach as well as fact-based decision making. She recalls spending two years with a client at Frito-Lay, where she works as an account manager, to determine why he was resistant to certain products before reaching a resolution that brought in a lot of money for the account. She called on all candidates to stay involved regardless of the outcome of the race.

Post said he was a former high school tennis coach and asked players to leave the court with the same attitude regardless of whether they won or lost. He also said that as a single dad he invested “every penny he had” into a pharmacy that would later become one of the best in the country. He asked voters to look at the record of “details” he accomplished, including bringing in the KIVA microcredit program, leading efforts to fix the city’s broadband, helping to rewrite the protest ordinance of the city and creating foundations for local law enforcement officers and firefighters.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.


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