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Elect mayor separately

When filing for municipal offices begins July 6, the town of Granite Quarry will take a giant step forward. Candidates who aspire to serve as the town’s mayor must file for the office.

That leaves only two Rowan municipalities which leave the selection of mayor up to the council or board — Salisbury and Faith, the largest and smallest.

It’s time for Salisbury to put this crucial decision directly in voters’ hands.

For as long as anyone can remember, Salisbury voters have elected all five members of City Council every two years. Once installed in office, those members elected a mayor, usually the highest vote-getter, and mayor pro tem, the person with the next-highest total.

The system has worked well so far. Even when a newcomer led the vote — Susan Kluttz comes to mind — she quickly rose to the occasion and became a fine mayor. Salisbury may not always be so fortunate.

The mayor is more than  a council member elevated to a slightly higher position. As illustrated by this year’s debate over a Pride Day proclamation, the office of mayor has distinct responsibilities. The mayor sets the agenda for the City Council and the tone for city government. He or she becomes the face of Salisbury, charged with building consensus and demonstrating leadership on tough issues.

The pressures and demands on the mayor have increased with the addition of Fibrant, the city’s changing demographics and the urgent need to grow the economy. Serving as mayor is virtually a full-time job. Letting council members choose that person is a quaint holdover from days gone by.

When Salisbury voters consider the City Council ballot, they should have the power to choose a mayor from among candidates who campaigned specifically for that office and spelled out what they intended to do as the city’s top elected official. The choice must be deliberate, not roundabout.   

This fall’s election has to proceed as usual. It took Granite Quarry two years to work through the process of adding a mayoral election. When City Council is sworn in after the election, though, members should take up the election issue. Salisbury has changed enormously through the years; the way city voters choose the mayor should change, too.

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