Karen Alexander says she values collaboration, partnerships above all else

Published 12:22 am Thursday, October 19, 2017

SALISBURY — In the two years that she has been mayor of Salisbury, Karen Alexander says, she has seen “wonderful, transformational changes” in the city.

Those changes include putting Downtown Salisbury Inc. under the city’s umbrella — which Alexander said allowed the agency to recruit more competitive candidates for a new DSI director — and holding City Action Planning Sessions that brought people together to talk about Salisbury’s future.

She said no one person can achieve anything and that collaboration is necessary to bring ideas to life.

“And sometimes things happen in working with others that make your initial idea actually better and more comprehensive,” Alexander said.

One way she has formed partnerships during her time as mayor has been through working with the North Carolina League of Municipalities and the Centralina Council of Governments.

“When you align both our local, our regional and our state strategies and goals, you are much more likely to achieve, much quicker and much more efficiently, what you want for your state,” Alexander said.

Collaboration also has been important in the City Council chambers, even when council members have seen things differently, she said.

“I think respect is very much a two-way street and, if we wish to have respect, then we have to offer it,” Alexander said. “Even if we see things differently, that’s fine. That’s what democracy is all about. And I treasure that.”

She said she particularly loves working with residents to achieve the city’s goals.

“Not the citizens that you hear complain, the noisy few. But the citizens who are every day working in the churches on programs for our students, people who are working in the school system through (Communities in Schools),” Alexander said. “They make a personal commitment to do that. You don’t hear from them. You don’t hear about them. But I do.”

On crime

Focusing on the partnership between the Salisbury Police Department and the community would help reduce crime, Alexander said.

“We cannot lay all the responsibility at the feet of the police,” she said.

She said residents can help solve crimes by using the “see something, say something” method.

“The community makes a decision every day. If they see something, say something,” Alexander said. “Because think about it: We have 100 police officers. How many citizens do we have? Close to 35,000? Do you think that would be important? Of course.”

On Fibrant

Alexander said the city’s Fibrant consultant said that if a city were to build the infrastructure in 2017 that Salisbury already has constructed, it would be worth $80 million.

“So we are only lacking paying off about $30 million. We are slated to pay that off in 11 years now. So I think it would be crazy for us not to pay that off, to keep our infrastructure, because it is as important to Salisbury today as electrifying our city, as sewer and water, as our road system was to the citizens at various points in our history,” Alexander said.

She said she thinks of it like a mortgage.

“We’re usually paying over 30 years for our mortgage. I don’t believe any one of us would throw up our hands and walk away at 11 years left on paying our mortgage. We would find some way to either refinance, bring in a partner, do whatever was necessary to protect our investment of $80 million or whatever it was we did with our home,” Alexander said.

On public comment

If re-elected, Alexander said, she would not make any changes to the format of public comment at council meetings.

“Because public comment is, of course, one of the most important things that we deal with because we do want to hear from our citizens. But we also want to have respect and civil process in that,” Alexander said.

City Council members deserve to be treated with civility because they, too, are citizens, she said.

“We are nothing more than citizens — ordinary citizens — who have stepped up to the plate to put our name in to run for office and serve our community,” Alexander said. “There’s no money in this; it’s not a high-paying endeavor. It’s a lot of time, a lot of sacrifice and time away from our families, and I believe that we have to have (public comment) be run where we don’t tolerate personal attacks.”

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.