Editorial: Salisbury, Rowan County meet moment of change

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Elections can mark major moments of change for Salisbury and Rowan County, but the community has already found one of those moments.

Today brings the news that Susan Cox, a three-term incumbent, plans to concede her campaign for a fourth term and put her support behind challenger Jennifer Studer, a nurse at the Salisbury VA Medical Center. Cox previously considered not seeking reelection, and her announcement doesn’t necessarily preclude her from securing another term because she’s too late to take her name off the ballot. Still, the decision makes it likely that Cox will join Josh Wagner as voluntarily stepping down and bringing at least two new faces to the school board.

The new members of the school board will be joined by a new superintendent of Rowan-Salisbury Schools after Lynn Moody last week said she was retiring. Depending on the school board’s preferences, Moody’s replacement could come as soon as this year.

Meanwhile, county government’s assistant manager and finance director, Leslie Heidrick, is heading for retirement, too, and taking with her more than two decades of experience and a history of sound financial management. Heidrick is joined by Social Services Director Donna Fayko, who leads the largest and one of the most critical county departments. Fayko is moving onward and upward and also has proven to be a good leader during her time in Rowan County.

The departures leave big shoes for County Manager Aaron Church to fill. It will be helpful, however, that Church will have the same county commissioners for at least two more years. Craig Pierce and Mike Caskey, whose terms expire this year, do not have any declared competition in the general election, making Nov. 3 a formality for four more years.

School board race excluded, this year’s campaign actually poses the potential to bring little change. Contested General Assembly races in Rowan County feature longtime Republican legislators in districts that favor them. In the 13th Congressional district, Republican Rep. Ted Budd is running for another term in a district that heavily favors his re-election, too.

In Spencer, meanwhile, a new town board and mayor have settled in and selected Peter Franzese as the assistant manager and the town manager in waiting. After a long period as interim manager, David Treme is expected to hand Franzese the reins in 2021.

It was just last month when Shon Barnes left as deputy Salisbury police chief and headed for a new job in Chicago, leaving behind a legacy of community partnerships, analytics and a 20-year low in crime.

Two months ago, the city’s director of Downtown Salisbury Inc. resigned and a new, permanent director has not been named. Particularly with development activity ongoing and other major projects waiting for action, filling that position with the right person is critical.

There are just weeks to the election and a chance for major change at the state and national levels, but our community — Salisbury and Rowan County — has already found its moment of change.