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Salisbury City Council takes steps toward separate mayoral election

SALISBURY — The City Council on Tuesday night voted to schedule a public hearing at its first meeting in August and move forward with a debate over whether to have a separate mayoral election.

In approving a resolution of intent to adopt the change, the council can choose after the public hearing to place a referendum question on the Nov. 5 ballot. The council also maintains the flexibility to forgo the referendum and vote itself on the change or delay the referendum until the March 2020 primary. The council could also decide not to make any change in the municipal election.

Tuesday’s vote did not change the way council members or the mayor will be elected this year. The vote schedules a public hearing during a City Council meeting to be held at 3 p.m Aug. 6 at City Hall. 

Through a council committee, Mayor Pro Tem David Post and Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield heard from residents about election reform, with some advocating for a separate mayoral race and others supporting four-year staggered terms.

Sheffield on Tuesday asked for a resolution of intent for four-year, staggered terms, saying more residents expressed support for that idea than a separate mayoral race. But Sheffield received questions about the diversity of those who attended committee meetings. And four council members expressed support for delaying discussion of that idea.

Councilman Brian Miller said he is not in favor of having two significant changes to the municipal election, saying, “These are seismic changes.” And while Miller said he is reserving his right to later vote against the mayoral change, he stated that he opposes the four-year, staggered terms. Miller said he would have preferred to have the discussion six months ago.

Sheffield emphasized she was just relaying her notes from the committee meeting. Sheffield said she has no personal opinion on any of the proposed changes.

“It will change the course of all of the elections if we make this happen,” Sheffield said.

Earlier in the meeting during the public-comment period, DeeDee Wright said she is in favor of having a separate mayoral race and a staggered four-year election. 

While previous councils have spoken about changing the mayoral election process, nothing has made it through. 

City Attorney Graham Corriher said the council had a tight deadline if the referendum were to be on the municipal election ballot this year, and the council would have to make a decision by its Aug. 20 meeting.

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