Crowded field vying for 5 Salisbury City Council seats
By Noelle Edwards
Five Salibury City Council seats are up for grabs, and 13 people are vying for them in the Nov. 3 election.
Four of those candidates hold seats now and hope to hang onto them. The other nine, one a write-in, would be new to council.
Bill Burgin is the only current council member not running again.
Susan Kluttz, who’s been Salisbury’s mayor for 12 years, said she campaigns for each term without taking anything for granted. She said she puts as much effort into this campaign as she has in past years.
As an incumbent, she has already been in the public eye for years. There are projects she wants to finish, such as Fiber to the Home and promotion of the city’s relationship with Salisbury, England.
She said, “I run on my record. I guess people will either approve or disapprove of what I’ve done.”
Paul Woodson, mayor pro tem, is also up for his seventh term. He owns Vogue Dry Cleaners on North Long Street. He said he enjoys being a councilman because it keeps him in touch with all areas of the city. He said otherwise it’s easy to get bogged down in daily life, but being on council makes him aware of the whole city.
“I don’t have my head in the sand,” he said.
He said people want progress in Salisbury, and that takes money sometimes.
“We’re trying to make an effort to make things better,” he said.
William “Pete” Kennedy will come close to holding a position on City Council longer than anyone in Salisbury’s history if he wins a ninth term in November. L.F. Cox, who ended his streak in 1973, was a councilman for 11 terms.
Kennedy said in his first campaign, he ran on the slogan, “The city is only as strong as its weakest neighborhood,” and he still believes it. He said some accomplishments he is most proud of involve neighborhood initiatives, such as helping establish the Community Development Corp. to help first-time homebuyers.
He wants to see the completion of projects in process, such as Fiber to the Home and the Empire Hotel initiative, which Downtown Salisbury Inc. handles but City Council can have a role in supporting and providing street infrastructure for.
Mark Lewis is the newest member of City Council, but he’s by no means a newbie. He came to council in 2003. Three recent projects he has had a hand in are Fiber to the Home, Empire Hotel project and creation of a Salisbury Tourism Development Authority.
The Empire Hotel is key to Salisbury’s future, he said. “This is one of our pivotal projects.” He said the city’s part in supporting the hotel’s development probably will be at its height in the next term.
Nine candidates are challenging the incumbents to the five council seats.
Charles Black works at Piedmont Correctional Institution and has lived in Salisbury 13 years. He decided to run because the area he lives in on Celtic Circle was annexed two years ago into the city, but he said his neighborhood isn’t taken care of like other areas of the city, despite paying city taxes. “We’re paying for it, but we’re not getting it,” he said.
He said he wants to represent middle-class people, which he considers those earning $25,000 to $50,000. He said that perspective is not represented in the current council.
“They may be nice,” he said. “I just don’t think they have the working man’s pocketbook in mind when they do some of this stuff.”
Maggie Blackwell was raised in a family in which community involvement was expected.
Her father was a reporter who covered the Civil Rights movement in Montgomery, Ala., and her mother was active in fighting for children’s educational needs. Blackwell has been active in Salisbury for years, working first with her neighborhood to raise money and work with the city to build Centennial Park.
“I consider myself the neighborhood lady,” she said.
She doesn’t have just one issue in mind when she thinks about potentially taking office, but she does particularly see a need for affordable, quality rental housing and for an active arts and evening life that would attract young professionals to the area. She said the city needs to make sure young people are ready for leadership in the future.
Carl Dangerfield is also motivated by young people ó the grandchildren he is raising.
He got interested in politics during the presidential election season last year. “I saw a lot of people had things to say,” he said.
Between that new interest and the fact that he wants to make a difference in his grandkids’ lives, he said, “Now is the time.” He is a detective with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.
Blake Jarman has lived in the city most of his life, and he said his passion for Salisbury is a big reason he is qualified for office. He said the council members all have served a long time ó some longer than a U.S. president is allowed to serve ó and he thinks he could provide a fresh perspective. He said some people have even given him the nickname “new blood.”
“Let’s put enthusiasm in our local government,” he said.
He has customer service experience from four years at Starbucks. He has a communications degree from Catawba College, but he wants to use that degree to help people.
“My one goal will be to go out there and find out how I can help people get a job and be successful in life because that’s my number one priority are the people,” he said.
Benjamin Johnson is running for a government position to reduce government involvement in Salisbury. He said people who want to start a business face too many barriers imposed by the city, and he wants to reduce the obstacles, especially for small businesses.
He said the city should not be run like a business, concerning itself with profits and expansion. The goal, he said, should be to take the minimum amount of taxes necessary and rely on the free market.
He also said he thinks instituting term limits and increasing pay for elected officials would open the door for people of different income levels to run for office, rather than giving an advantage to the wealthy.
Brian Miller has worked with various organizations ó Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Salisbury Inc., United Way ó that influence parts of the city. Becoming a member of City Council is the logical next step, he said. He said he has developed the skills he would need as a councilman in other organizations.
He said he doesn’t have an agenda for the city if he were to be elected. Rather, he sees his role as “moving the ball down the field.”
It’s the same with the budget. He doesn’t see one thing that needs money thrown at it, but he wants to be part of deciding which programs are essential and need funding.
William Peoples has also worked on the city, about 15 years.
“I bring a different perspective than most of the candidates,” he said, because he lives in the West End and has seen some of the issues minority and less fortunate communities experience.
His priorities in office would be fixing the inequality he sees among neighborhoods. He said the city should help establish recreation for young people and should help repair what he called “blighted neighborhoods.”
In addition to working on city boards and commissions, he has been active on the grassroots level. He worked to keep Lincoln Pool from closing and helped get streetlights and sidewalks on Brenner Avenue, he said.
Michael Young has lived in Salisbury 27 years and has held positions on many boards and committees in the city. He said he is able to look at situations objectively and to consider many people’s viewpoints in making a decision. He likes to plan and solve problems.
“It’s a challenge in a down economy … for municipalities to do anything new,” he said. “It’s more of a holding pattern. Times like this are a better time to plan for the future, to plan for better days, because it’s not always going to be like this.”
Sidney Roberts didn’t file in time to be listed on the ballot, so he started a write-in campaign to get his name out.
According to the Rowan County Board of Elections, Roberts filed the paperwork necessary to run as an official write-in candidate.
He wants to pull together interest groups such as colleges and business owners to work as a team on creating more jobs for Salisbury.
He said a key to Salisbury’s growth is to treat it as a city, rather than a town. To act like Salisbury is a small town stunts its growth, he said.
“In order to meet the challenges of today, we must be proactive to bring the changes that we need,” he said.