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Elect 2019: Salisbury voters to decide separate mayoral election

By Liz Moomey
liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Along choosing five Salisbury City Council candidates, voters will also be asked whether they prefer a separate mayoral election.

On Aug. 20, the council approved both an ordinance and a resolution to allow voters to chose on the Nov. 5 ballot whether to have a separate election.

The resolution passed stated the ordinance is “effective only if approved by the qualified voters of the entire City of Salisbury in a special election.” The ordinance states “the qualified voters of the entire city elect the mayor separate form the the election of the other four members of council.”

The council alone has the ability to create a separate mayoral election, but the council wanted the citizens to weigh in.

The ballot question will appear for voters in the Salisbury city limits, titled “City of Salisbury Charter Amendment to Establish Separate Mayoral Election” and asking “Shall the ordinance adopted by the Salisbury City Council on August 20, 2019, which would amend the City Charter by requiring a separate election for the Office of Mayor, be approved?”

Voters will choose “yes” or “no.”

Regardless of voters’ choices, the change would not go into effect until the 2021 municipal election.

The tradition is the highest vote getter becomes mayor. Nearby Rowan municipalities, including China Grove, Spencer, East Spencer and Landis, have a separate election for the mayor and the board members.

The ballot referendum came after a series of city Election Committee meetings, which invited community members for a discussion about the Salisbury council and the election. Some suggestions including having staggered four year terms. Currently, the council members serve for two years, with elections occurring in odd years, and no change is currently proposed to that system.

There was also briefly a discussion about wards or partisan races, but the results were not favorable.

The council talked about pushing off the ballot question as the deadline to submit it to the Rowan County Board of Elections came closer. After municipal elections is the March primary for president, governor and others. Mayor Pro Tem David Post, who has been an advocate for the separate mayoral election, and Councilwoman Karen Alexander both said the referendum should be on the November municipal ballot because it’s a municipal issue.

Several candidates were asked at the Sept. 26 forum their opinion of the separate mayoral election. Candidate Gemale Black said he supported the referendum, saying the citizens should know who they put as mayor and that Salisbury was a big enough city to choose its mayor.

Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield said she is OK with either. It’s up to the people to decide, Sheffield said.

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