Editorial: End of an era for Salisbury

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 9, 2011

“I’ve always known when it was time to go.”
— David Treme, in a 1999 Salisbury Post “Newsmaker of the Year” profile
When City Manager Dave Treme made that comment almost 12 years ago, he was at the midpoint of the 25-year tenure now drawing to a close. It had been an eventful year for Treme and the city. Some constituents were critical of spending decisions (sound familiar?) involving a new community park, a new City Hall, the old Towne Mall property and the former Flowers Bakery. Revenues were a concern. The city was especially worried about manufacturing shutdowns, including Cone Mills, its largest water customer. On the personnel side, Treme had ruffled feathers by going outside the established hierarchy in the police department to hire a new chief, and some were upset that he had retroactively enforced a policy banning spouses from working within the same city department.
Yet while we might describe it as an eventful year, Treme would probably say it was just business as usual. In fact, pick out any year in his tenure and you’ll find controversy as well as accomplishment, criticism as well as accolades. On issues ranging from annexation to water rates, Treme has often been the lightning rod for criticism. There’s a reason city managers are appointed, rather than serving at the whim of voters. As former Mayor Margaret Kluttz put it in that 1999 article, “It’s not his job to be popular.”
Among co-workers and city council members, however, Treme has been a popular and highly respected leader, as was obvious Tuesday following his surprise resignation announcement. The tears were sincere. So were the plaudits for solid accomplishments of the Treme era, including downtown revitalization, the Plaza restoration, enhanced professionalism of services and the transformation of Salisbury-Rowan Utilities into a regional water and sewer provider. More recently, Treme oversaw the opening of a new Customer Service Center as well as the launch of the city’s fiber-optic system, an expansion of services that has generated controversy, just as did other city endeavors in the past. The future always has the final say.
City managers are sometimes compared to professional baseball managers in terms of their tendency to move from team to team. According to one study, they last an average of seven years or so on the job before moving on. That Treme served a quarter century in Salisbury speaks volumes about his commitment to this city, as well as underscoring the trust city leaders placed in his judgment and oversight.