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City council to get public input on separate mayoral race

By Liz Moomey
liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday on whether Salisbury voters should elect their mayor directly.

The hearing, scheduled at 3 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 132 N. Main St., will be to gather public input on whether to move to a separate mayoral election in 2021.

Currently, the mayor is elected by the council after municipal elections. The tradition has been that the candidate who finished with the most votes in the council election becomes mayor.

After several committee meetings, Mayor Pro Tem David Post and Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield presented possible changes that were discussed at last month’s council meeting. Post said many people told the committee they would like to have a separate mayoral election to prevent a candidate from becoming an “accidental mayor.”

Sheffield said others also called for staggered, four-year terms for council members, who currently serve two-year terms.

The council decided to move forward with a separate mayoral election but declined to approve other changes. Council members said they are not in favor of making two significant changes to municipal elections at the same time.

To change the process of the municipal election, council members can either vote on the issue themselves or put the questions to voters in a referendum.

City Attorney Graham Corriher said the council would have a tight deadline if the question is on the 2019 municipal ballot and that the council would need to make a decision by Aug. 20.

The council can also put the question on future ballots, including the March primary ballot or the November 2020 general election ballot.

No change would affect November’s municipal election. 

In other business:

• The council will continue a public hearing about the Empire Hotel redevelopment project that began July 16. After closing the hearing, the council will consider a resolution to appropriate money once construction moves forward. There would be no impact on the fiscal year 2020 budget.

• Pete Teague, of Livingstone College, and Post will present a proposal to establish a temporary advisory committee on economic development.

• Police Chief Jerry Stokes will give an update on crime and police staffing.

• The council will choose how to evaluate five applications for a Downtown Revitalization Incentive Grant.

• The council will appoint a member of the Housing Advocacy Commission and the Tree Board. 

• Mayor Al Heggins will present a proclamation on National Night Out, to be observed Tuesday.

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