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Alexander takes City Council oath

SALISBURY — Saying she will take into consideration all the residents of Salisbury when she deliberates, Karen Alexander on Tuesday became the newest member of City Council.

Alexander took the oath of office as administered by City Clerk Myra Heard. Alexander filled the vacancy left by former Mayor Pro Tem Susan Kluttz, who resigned earlier this month to become secretary of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

“I can promise you that I will serve the city with a servant’s heart, you can be sure of that,” Alexander said.

Following Alexander, Councilwoman Maggie Blackwell was sworn in as the new mayor pro tem.

Blackwell kept her comments brief, saying “today is Karen’s day.” Blackwell pledged to “work as hard as I can every day.”

During public comment later in the City Council meeting, community activist William Peoples criticized the way Alexander was appointed, calling it a “backroom, good-ol’ boy system.”

“How can you bypass the election process and appoint whoever when not everybody was given the opportunity to participate in the process?” Peoples said.

Council members appointed Alexander, an architect and former chairwoman of the Salisbury Planning Board, the same day they accepted Kluttz’s resignation, Jan. 3.

Mayor Paul Woodson told the Post after the Jan. 3 meeting that he had been receiving private nominations for Kluttz’s replacement for weeks and decided not to open the process to the public because he already had three well-qualified finalists, chosen from eight to 10 nominees.

Woodson said he was concerned he would be flooded with nominations and wanted to have someone in place before City Council’s annual strategic planning retreat in February.

Woodson said he contacted council members individually to discuss the issue, and he personally interviewed three finalists — Alexander, former City Council member Mark Lewis and Rip Kersey, runner-up in the 2011 election.

Woodson said he was looking for a “pro-business woman” to fill Kluttz’s vacancy, and Alexander fit all the criteria the council had set in private: experience in budgeting, knowledge of the city’s long-range comprehensive plan Vision 2020, advocacy for the proposed downtown school central office, experience in planning and zoning, advocacy for better housing, experience with tourism and an emphasis on jobs.

Kersey also has criticized the way Alexander was appointed, saying election results should have determined Kluttz’s replacement, not gender. Kersey missed a seat on City Council in 2011 by 119 votes.

On Tuesday, Alexander thanked family and friends for attending the ceremony. Several surrounded her as she took the oath, including husband Henry Alexander and son Daniel Almazan, along with his wife Christy, their children Isabella and Mason and Christy Almazan’s son, Tyler Christler.

The Rev. Carol Hallman, pastor at First United Church of Christ, where Alexander is a member, read a passage from the Bible before the oath.

Alexander’s brother, Allen Kirks of China Grove, attended the ceremony.

Alexander made special mention of Patty Mason, Christy Almazan’s mother, who was in the audience. Alexander said the Mason, Almazan and Alexander families celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas together “as a unified family,” which is especially meaningful since Alexander has only one child.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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