‘Being that public servant’: Al Heggins files for re-election to City Council

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 17, 2019

SALISBURY — After winning the mayor’s seat as a political newcomer in 2017, Al Heggins has decided she wants to continue her work on the Salisbury City Council.

Heggins said she is most proud of her work forming the Fair Housing Committee, which was founded at the end of 2018 to address impediments in affordable and fair housing in the city.

“The fact that we put that in place, and that was one of the things that I campaigned on that we certainly need to focus on, fair housing — to me, certainly that’s the top of the list,” Heggins said.

Heggins added that the Resolution of Reconciliation, which was passed in January, was an important achievement because it “goes a long way to show that we’re an inclusive and compassionate city.” The resolution condemned the 1906 lynchings of three African-Americans, Jack Dillingham, Nease Gillespie and John Gillespie, and committed to identifying and eliminating inequities and disparities in the city.

Heggins has served as mayor during a contentious two years and said she has received hateful comments while dealing with controversies such as a public discussion about the Confederate monument “Fame” and its fate. That discussion occurred after instances of vandalism in August and March. Heggins said she also received backlash for the Resolution of Reconciliation despite the fact the proclamation was presented during Councilwoman Karen Alexander’s term as mayor.

But she said the public’s comments — whether positive or negative — are a part of the job.

“As public servants, we have to get accustomed to the fact that is a part of this arena, that there are going to be some things said that are mean, unfair. But there are also things that are said that are supportive and encouraging,” Heggins said.

She added, though, that it’s still challenging to hear negative responses.

“It’s hard when you have hateful comments that are directed at you, especially when people don’t have the full picture,” Heggins said.

Heggins was the top vote getter in 2017, receiving 2,152 votes or 12.38% of the vote, edging out David Post, who received 2,140 votes or 12.31%. She became the first African-American woman to be elected mayor in Salisbury.

When asked about potentially becoming mayor again, she said she hadn’t given it thought.

“All I’m thinking about is: I’m running again for City Council, and to me, it’s about being that public servant,” Heggins said.

Going forward, Heggins said she is focused on infrastructure because she knows cities nationwide have aging systems.

“We need a comprehensive assessment of our infrastructure to see what some of the things we need to be doing,” Heggins said. “Infrastructure isn’t just an issue for Salisbury but for so many cities across the country.”

Heggins said she will concentrate on roads, water systems and the train station and how they look in the future.

Along with infrastructure, Heggins said she is advocating for a government that’s inclusive for all residents, innovation in public participation in the city’s decision making process, workers’ rights, a living wage, addressing poverty and the crime rate.

A news release announcing her filing for re-election said Heggins “will continue to lend her ear, heart and hands to making Salisbury better.”

When deciding to seek re-election, Heggins said she prayed, meditated and spoke to family members, who were supportive.

“I went to God first, and of course to my husband and then to my kids,” she said. “They have all been very supportive and proud of me and have said, ‘Whatever you feel like you need to do, we’re with you,’ because they know my heart is in public service.”

Heggins is a native of Rowan County. She has been a school teacher, college administrator and small business owner. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She is fluent in Spanish.

She is married to Issac Heggins and is a mother and a grandmother to three.