Not so fast on deciding who will be mayor

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 10, 2011

By Elizabeth Cook
Members of the Salisbury City Council have not always elected their top vote-getter as mayor, according to David Clay.
Reports about Tuesday’s election have leading candidate Paul Woodson “already sitting at the mayor’s desk,” as has been Salisbury’s tradition, Clay said.
He’s not trying to talk Woodson out of becoming mayor, Clay said, but it’s time to set the record straight.
Clay personally played a key role in an exception to the council’s unofficial rule.
As young businessman and relative newcomer to Salisbury, Clay entered the City Council race in 1959. To his surprise, he received more votes than anyone else, including the mayor.
“Linwood Foil had been mayor for a number of years and had done a wonderful job,” Clay said Wednesday.
And Foil had said going into the election that it would be his last term.
Clay weighed that experience and desire against his own busy agenda. Since moving to Salisbury in the early 1950s, he had hit the ground running. He was president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce and had been chairman of the Rowan County Fair Association. He was a member of the Civitans, the Sunday school superintendent at First Baptist and a member of the YMCA board of directors. An insurance agent, he and his wife were raising three daughters (and later would have one more).
Tradition called for him to add “mayor” to the list, despite his inexperience on the council.
“I said, ‘Linwood’s had it,’ ” and Linwood should keep it, Clay said.
Clay, who went on to serve two terms on the council, became mayor pro tem.
Foil, a Salisbury native who was a partner in a grocery store and other family businesses, was mayor from 1955-1963 — at the time the longest term by a mayor since the Civil War era.
Current Mayor Susan Kluttz has held her post 14 years.
Salisbury pursued and won designation as a 1962 All American City while Foil and Clay were on the council.
Clay said his situation in 1959 was very different from today, since Woodson has been on the council 14 years. But again, he wanted to set the record straight. He could have been mayor, but he let Linwood Foil keep the post. “I was happy, happy, happy to do it,” he said.