Brian Miller says he wants the Salisbury City Council to be like a board of directors

Published 12:22 am Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Editor’s note: The is the sixth in a series of articles taking a closer look at Salisbury City Council candidates.

SALISBURY — Brian Miller says his job as a City Council member is to give departments what they need to succeed.

“We need to provide leadership at a board of directors level,” Miller said. “We’re here to provide counsel and resources.”

Miller said he sends emails to department heads if he sees a program that he thinks could work in Salisbury.

“But regardless of what we’re talking about with city staff, I’m not going to have the same amount of experience as someone who’s been in parks and recreation for years,” Miller said. “I do not believe that, myself being a banker, I could possibly come to the table and say, ‘Have you thought about this? I saw it on (television).’”

Miller said that as a district manager for BB&T Bank, he travels frequently for work and is therefore not in town for every meeting and community event.

In the last candidates forum, held Sept. 28 at Mission House Church, Miller said he serves on the City Council “as a hobby” because his job occupies so much of his time.

“If you want me to be the person that goes and chases down a garbage truck because they missed your house, I’m not that guy,” Miller said. “But, in my opinion, I would stand toe to toe with anyone else, in terms of the quality of time that I give.”

Miller said that in the four terms he has served on the council, he has missed few meetings and has used vacation days to attend budget meetings.

On schools

“If you look at all problems we have, education is the one thing that can make everything better,” Miller said.

The city has many boards and commissions, as well as several community groups, that serve youth, he said, but there is no formal group that combines their efforts.

Miller said he’s sure what role the City Council can play in improving schools.

“It would have to be a focus on our goal-setting retreat, and City Council would have to debate what our role is,” Miller said. “Then, if we’d want to be involved, we’d have to talk to the school system.”

Miller said he would want to focus on early education with a particular focus on early literacy.

He said he’d want to work with Crosby Scholars and Communities in Schools and “help combine the efforts of all the people involved.”

On recruiting business

Miller said there is a formula for recruiting business: “Present a good story.”

He thinks the city has the right people in place to enhance its reputation, including Rowan EDC CEO Rod Crider and the Rowan County commissioners.

“But what I think is the biggest detriment is the tone and tenor on (social media),” Miller said.

He used the analogy of Salisbury as a garden.

“If you were to grow a garden with the intent of feeding your families, would you put plant killer on the garden?” Miller asked.

He said when bloggers and others put “half-truths” about the city online, it is the equivalent of weed killer in the garden.

“If I were an investor, if I see the community can’t get along, why would I want to be a part of it?” Miller asked. “Incentives and all that stuff matter, but the quality of life is important, too.”

Miller said for businesses already in Salisbury, the city has a good track record of supporting them with grants.

“We could probably do a better job of showing those exist but, if you’re a small business and you want to double your employment, come talk to us,” Miller said. “The best business is homegrown business, and we want to encourage small businesses to the largest degree we can.”

On public comment

Miller said his main issue with the public-comment period at council meetings is that the format “does not allow us to have meaningful dialogue.”

“I would much rather us change the format to allow discussion,” Miller said.

Rather than add discussion to the comment period, he would want time set aside after a meeting when residents could discuss whatever they feel is “boiling up” at the time.

Miller said he would also want to move public comment to the beginning or end of the meeting.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.