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Newly elected council supports Alexander for mayor

New mayor?

Karen Alexander

Karen Alexander

Karen Alexander wants to be Salisbury’s mayor, and she’s got a good chance of snagging the position.

Traditionally, Salisbury’s City Council picks the top vote-getter as its next mayor. Outgoing Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson and former Mayor Susan Kluttz — now the N.C. Cultural Resources secretary — received the most votes every year they were elected mayor. Now that Alexander is the top vote-getter, she wants the position and seems to have the support of the newly elected council.

If selected, she would be the 35th person to serve as Salisbury’s mayor. A total of 40 people have served at the head of Salisbury’s government. Before mayor, the title was superintendent.

“I’m very interested, but my colleagues have to make that decision,” Alexander said. “I really respect that process, and I think it’s really important that they feel the same way that the voters do. I’m excited that my lead is enough not to just be a few votes.”

Alexander received 1,831 votes. Current Salisbury Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell finished about 230 votes behind Alexander with 1,604 votes. The race was significantly closer in 2013, when Woodson, Blackwell and Alexander finished in the top three. Woodson, who finished first, was only separated from Alexander, in third, by 34 votes.

Blackwell, however, has consistently served on the Salisbury City Council as Mayor Pro Tem since first being elected in 2009.

She initially chose not to run for a fourth term, but when she did file for the Salisbury City Council race, Blackwell said her supporters were concerned about a vacuum in leadership on the council. At the time, Blackwell specifically cited the fact that Woodson and Councilman Pete Kennedy chose not to seek re-election. Woodson has 18 years of experience on City Council. Kennedy has 22.

Blackwell said the nature of Salisbury’s City Council race means all candidates are running for mayor.

“I have a son that’s way smarter than I am, and I explained to him one time that all five of us run for council and the top vote getter becomes mayor,” Blackwell said. “He said, ‘Mom be serious. You’re all running for mayor and the four losers get council.’ “

Following Tuesday’s election results, however, Blackwell denied any rumors that she wanted the mayor position.

“I respect Karen,” Blackwell said. “She got the most votes, and she clearly wants to be mayor, and I respect that.”

In fact, newly elected City Council members also seem fairly united in their support for Alexander as Salisbury’s next mayor.

When asked specifically if she would vote for Alexander for mayor, Blackwell said, “of course.”

Brian Miller, who placed third, answered without delay when asked about selecting Alexander as mayor.

“Absolutely, I don’t even have to think about that,” Miller said.

Consultant and community activist Kenny Hardin, who finished in fifth, is another newly elected council candidate who previously hinted at interest in the mayor’s spot. Hardin didn’t say explicitly whether he would vote for Alexander, but said he wasn’t interested in the position.

“Had I received the top number of votes, it might be something I’d be interested in,” Hardin said.

Attorney and entrepreneur David Post, who finished in fourth, also said he’d support Alexander. However, he quickly followed up his answer by mentioning an idea he mentioned frequently during the campaign season — electing the mayor separately of the rest of the council.

“I think we should have a different form of government because it’s a big job to be mayor,” Post said. “We’ve been lucky for the last 30 years that we’ve had people who have had the flexibility to work for 30 hours a week or what it takes to be mayor. I think Karen will absolutely be able to do that, and I think she deserves it. After all, she did win.”

Post’s statements describe another long-running tradition for Salisbury mayors — most haven’t served more than one term, or two years, in the position. In fact, 60 percent of Salisbury’s mayors or superintendents have served for two years. Among those who have served consecutive terms, Woodson, who served four years, is tied for the sixth-longest-serving mayor with 10 others.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.



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