A deeper look at policy: Tamara Sheffield says positive outlook can help city work together

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 6, 2017

SALISBURY — Tamara Sheffield has said that one of the keys to solving Salisbury’s problems is to take a positive approach and maintain hope.

But that outlook does not mean she doesn’t recognize the city has problems.

“It’s not about having that rose-colored view and ignoring that we have race problems, ignoring that we have crime problems, ignoring that we have an addiction problem, ignoring that we have an employment problem,” Sheffield said. “It’s about having a positive outlook to make us all put our shoulders back a little bit, work together and find ideas that get us all up out of this.”

She said she hasn’t always had such a positive view of the world.

“But being mad or angry, for whatever reason, is a very heavy burden. And the day you lose it — and it could be a million reasons why it happens — you realize how much good you can do. And that’s what you’ve got to do,” Sheffield said. “It’s not saying, ‘How can Mary Sunshine relate to me?’ It’s about knowing the fact that that person does relate to me, even though they’re not like me.”

She said being relatable is a “necessity” when working together with the community to achieve goals.

“When something happens, you may not have known that person before but, as a human and as a servant of this city, it’s your job to go figure that out and to go touch base and to find out,” Sheffield said. “And not (to) just go to a funeral. It’s about knowing that family and knowing families like that family.”

On crime 

Sheffield said one way to prevent tragedies like violent crime is to enhance and expand community policing.

“I applaud the efforts and I applaud the fact that we’re actually saying that we’re doing community policing, but it’s not enough,” Sheffield said. “To get a police officer out of their car for 45 minutes during the day at noon, that’s not enough.”

She said she knows most officers would rather be in the field instead of doing paperwork.

“It’s structured to where they don’t have that ability to do what they want to do. They want to be in the community. Every one of them do. So what are the obstacles that keep them from doing more than 45 minutes?” Sheffield asked.

Sheffield doesn’t “believe that you can arrest your way out of crime problems.”

“We have gangs, drugs and gun violence, but what we don’t talk about are the things that cause the gangs and drugs and gun violence,” Sheffield said. “We don’t talk about education, we don’t talk about addiction, and we don’t talk about mental illness as a country. But we have to set ourselves apart in Salisbury.”

On recruiting business

Sheffield said Salisbury has to set itself apart in another way — as a hub for business. Before you can recruit large companies to the city, you have to first support existing businesses.

“Once you have that, you have the repaired reputation to recruit new businesses,” she said.

She said the city’s partnership with Rowan EDC — formerly RowanWorks — has to be strengthened.

“We have to make sure Rod (Crider) and his team are on board with the fact that Salisbury is the county seat. We need to be that shining star,” Sheffield said. “And we need to be able to reach out to our partners up and down these shining streets and find out what’s in Rowan County’s best interest.”

On public comment

Sheffield said she understands the need for procedure at City Council meetings, “because there’s business that has to occur there.”

“But there’s no business more important than the citizens’. None. None goes before that,” Sheffield said.

She said that for residents to be able to speak their minds, there needs to be a more welcoming atmosphere. Among other things, she greeters at council meetings could explain how to sign up for public comment.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.