Salisbury holds strategic planning workshop

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, October 10, 2023

SALISBURY — On Friday, Salisbury hosted a strategic planning workshop where staff and officials went into detail about its three-to-five-year vision for the city. Representatives from Raftelis, the firm hired to manage the strategic plan, led the discussion to pinpoint what Salisbury will need to do to accomplish both its short-term goals as well as the long-term ones that are connected to the city’s Forward 2040 plan. City council members, Fire Chief Bob Parnell, Police Chief Patrick “P.J.” Smith and other individuals with the city of Salisbury collaborated on what is vital for the community and what will be in the future.

“The goal here is to develop that citywide, that common strategic plan for our organization that allows us to bring all of these plans together,” City Manager Jim Greene said.

“What are those things you need to do now in these next three years, in order to have the vision that’s in your 2040 plan realized?” Raftelis representative Michelle Ferguson said.

Raftelis stated that the two biggest questions staff had to answer for themselves were: “What do we know to be true today?” and “What do we hope will be true in the future?” People had the chance to answer those questions by writing them on sticky notes and placing them on a large piece of paper for everyone to study.

For what is true today, some said having a thriving downtown, having strong academic facilities and a focus on the arts. For what is not true today, but will be in 10 years is housing for all, improved schools, added amenities like a skate park and a more positive public perception of Salisbury.

Ferguson wanted to hear from Salisbury on what was important to them and what they believe in. Council member David Post described how Salisbury has evolved over time and how the differences in demographics for the city and county can lead to unforeseen consequences.

Council member Anthony Smith shared a story of how someone he knew walked into Mean Mug with a bullet wound and the ramifications of what that meant for those involved.

“Crises like that reveal some of the larger systemic barriers that we face in our community,” Smith said “This city has the capability to respond to the many crises that we have that we’re facing, we just have to have a clearer view of that is.”

Raftelis conducted an “environmental scan” of Salisbury to show how it compares to the rest of the nation and what the people living and working in the city think are its strengths and the challenges it faces. Between the years 2000 and 2020, Salisbury’s population increased 34 percent with the median age decreasing from 37.1 to 35.8. Residents have affordable housing and a desire for better public safety initiatives as a few of the major concerns in Salisbury.

The employee survey advised that the city’s assets include their commitment to serving the community, innovation and being forward-thinking, strong leadership and being engaged with the community. The obstacles that it faces is its struggles with managing and preparing for growth, housing affordability and homelessness, staff recruitment and retention, and enhancing workplace culture.

The opportunities for improvement were planning for growth, public safety, housing affordability, leveraging partnerships and employee and workplace development.

Raftelis will be working with staff to enact the vision and conducting methods to execute real results for the strategic plan. They will gather goals and focus areas and bring them back to council at another workshop at a later date.

Smith appreciated the camaraderie at the workshop and how everyone was on the same page on how to face certain hurdles that plague Salisbury for the time being. Smith says getting outside assistance and perspective is the key for a smaller town like Salisbury to succeed.

“Going forward, working with other departments and partnerships, the mayor mentioned state, local and federal partnerships. For law enforcement purposes, to reduce crime and the fear of crime and that increases the quality of life, it goes in line with what they were mentioning they wanted for the city as a whole in every community. It falls right into our stratified policing model that we already have in place, it makes me feel good that we’re on the right track,” Smith said.

Mayor Karen Alexander said she was “very pleased with the broad range of topics” at the workshop and will take everything into account when distributing funds for next year’s budget.

“I think having this strategic plan in place allows us in January when we start focusing on our budget for 2023-2024, then we’re going to be focusing on the first year of what we’re going to implement from that strategic plan…I think it will set us up for a good move forward with a strategic vision,” Alexander said.