Salisbury sticks with incumbents, Alexander leads vote

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 6, 2019

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — All Salisbury City Council incumbents will return, but the position of mayor is likely to switch as a result of Tuesday’s election results.

Karen Alexander received the most votes and, by tradition, would be chosen mayor by a council vote. Current Mayor Al Heggins, who finished second, would become mayor pro tem, according to tradition.

That tradition, however, is likely to be different in the next municipal election. Salisbury voters gave their support to a change to the city’s charter to create a separate mayoral race. A total of 2,683 voters, or 60.52%, voted for the change. A total of 1,750 voters, or 39.48%, voted against the change.

Alexander previously served as mayor in 2015-17, losing the top seat in 2017 to Heggins. On Tuesday, Alexander won first place with 15.10% of the vote, or 2,739 votes. Heggins received 14.08%, or 2,554 votes.

Current Mayor Pro Tem David Post and council members Brian Miller and Tamara Sheffield will fill the remaining seats on the council, receiving 13.94%, 12.91% and 11.66%, respectively.

“We’ll have a great council,” Alexander said. “I look forward to serving with everyone.”

With a mix of feelings that included excited, blessed and humbled, Alexander celebrated the win at the Heritage Room, on East Council Street.

Alexander said she is looking forward to moving the community forward in a united way.

She sees economic development as a needed concentration for the city, with Interstate 85’s widening coming to completion at the end of the year and Chewy, an online pet retailer, bringing more than 1,000 jobs to Rowan County. She says Chewy will be an “avalanche” for the community.

Alexander said wants the “economic tide” to rise for all, with workforce development and educational opportunities. Alexander said she wants to tap into the entrepreneurial base in Salisbury, especially those coming from the city’s four colleges.

She said her first task as mayor will be ensuring the whole council is well-informed.

“I want council to feel that they are equally informed and communicated with,” Alexander said, adding there shouldn’t be any surprises.

The council should have time to read and digest the agenda ahead of the meeting, she said.

Alexander said service is what she loves and she looks forward to having different ideas and perspectives work together.

Heggins, as mayor pro tem, said she would concentrate on continuing community growth and community wealth.

With the same five members, Heggins said the council will be a team. The council is going to keep working together, Alexander said.

Her message to her supporters was, “We’re going to rock steady.”

Asked Tuesday about the results, Post congratulated Alexander and Heggins.

“I hope that we, over the next two years, work together for the betterment of our community,” Post said.

In the next two years on council, Post said he would like to focus on economic development, explore alternatives to the public transportation system and ensure that the police and fire departments have all the resources they need.

Miller joined Alexander at the Heritage Room celebration. He’ll be serving his sixth term on council. He said it’s always humbling to have the community elect him.

Though Miller once said his current term would be his last, Miller said he still had a passion to serve. Miller said he looks forward to finishing the Empire Hotel redevelopment project and the Bell Tower Green park as well as starting work on designing the Main Street streetscape project. Miller said he also wants to create more opportunities for business expansion.

Sheffield said she wants to get projects “across the finish line” and follow through on the city’s Capital Improvement Plan. Sheffield said she wants to work toward fixing the city’s transit system, continuing city staff raises, keeping the crime rate low and providing resources for the parks and recreation department. She also wants to see the Empire Hotel redevelopment finished.

Sheffield said she looks forward to continuing with the same council.

“I’m excited we don’t have to start over fresh,” Sheffield said. “We don’t have to retreat the path we’re on.”

Sheffield said she is glad to be chosen to serve again on council and to continue to bring her level-headed approach.

Patricia Jones “P.J.” Ricks finished sixth and just shy of a council spot, with 1,863 votes or 10.27%. Ricks said she will continue to stay involved in the community.

Gemale Black finished with 1,299 votes, or 7.16%. John Struzick received 1,297 votes, or 7.15%. Giannina Monzon received 1,076 votes, or 5.93%. Ladale Benson, who discontinued his campaign, finished with 235 votes. There were 91 write-in votes.

Alexander said she hopes candidates that were not elected to be on City Council will continue to serve.

“I’m proud of all the people who ran,” she said. “We have some rising stars. I want them to continue to serve on boards and commissions.”