After a coronation that has been ongoing since August, Jake Day will finally be sworn in Monday as the 28th mayor of Salisbury.
With no election opposition and people eagerly anticipating his first moves in office, the 33-year-old political leader offers a hint of what his stewardship will be over the largest city on the Eastern Shore:
Q. What will you do on Day One?
A. On Day One I will meet with my staff and give them direction on our top priorities in the very near term. I will also begin traveling from department to department to meet with the entire city team.
An uncontested election was a blessing in more ways than one. It enabled me to take the time over the last few months to plan and to begin meeting one on one with all city department head. I don’t have to walk in on day one and introduce myself, my style, or my priorities to everyone. They are all ready to go.
Q. How will you articulate your plans to the public and communicate your progress?
A. My administration will live by our results. We will be tracking progress on our goals through a set of metrics that will be developed in the coming weeks.
I want to be able to show you our progress in black-and-white. And maybe a splash of color. As for communicating with the public, you can expect me to utilize social media, traditional media and direct citizen engagement. I will continue the State of the City address tradition.
Q. Has there been a leadership gap in Salisbury’s government? If so, how will you fill this gap?
A. Look, leadership style reflects the individual. My leadership style is my own. I tend to be a very present manager. It may take some getting used to, but I will be in the city hall every day. As a leader, it is my job to empower others. I want to empower the council, the city administrator, the department heads, and every single employee to be the absolute best contributor they can be to improving Salisbury.
Q. You are an aggressive and committed personality. Will the city’s employees be able to keep up with your speed?
A. I don’t think they will have any trouble. We have great people. What they need is clear goals, a clear understanding of what success looks like, and an operating environment that gives them the space to succeed.
To our team, I say: “Knock my socks off!”
Q. How will you make yourself accessible to the public?
A. I will be posting open mayor’s office hours shortly after I am sworn in.
Anyone can come see me anytime about anything. My email address and phone number will remain very public.
I am an active user of social media, and I don’t think this will slow me down. Perhaps most importantly, I will be out in our neighborhood every single week. And if none of that is convenient for you, most people know you can find me at any number of coffee shops around town throughout the day. Let it be known: I drink too much coffee.
Q. Anything about the job that concerns you?
A. As you know, I am a new father. I intend to be a present, accessible, 24/7 mayor. But my family comes first and I don’t want anything to keep me from my daughter. Other than that, it sure pays less than any job I’ve had, but I didn’t get into this for money.
Q. Should the city continue sharing office space with the county or is it time for a true City Hall?
A. I love our shared arrangement with the county. Whenever I talk to any city or county leaders and other relatively large cities that are county seats, I always hear gripes about the relationship between the city and county.
Not one of them can say they had the foresight or cooperative spirit to live under the same roof.
That said, I hate our building. It represents the worst in 1970s design and architecture. I know that the county is short on space and we are too.
However we solve that issue in the future, I just don’t wanted to hinder the opportunity we have for cooperation by sharing a building.
Q. What are your public safety goals?
A. I want to keep cutting violent crime and property crime. We have made so much progress over the past few years, but I won’t rest on those facts while people don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods and in their homes.
To get there, I need two things that some might see as diametrically oppose. I need a cadre of police officers that has the support and flexibility they need to dramatically influence the criminal landscape.
And, I need a relationship between our citizens and the police department that is trusting, mutually supportive and familiar.
While we have work to do, I believe we are in a better place than many other communities in making progress toward those goals.
It will also be my objective to kick our (citizens’) heroin addiction. That will take far more than a police response. That will take a health care, county, state, federal and community effort.
Q. Do you believe that the city should change its legal representation from a retainer format?
A. I believe the city needs a contract with our attorney. This will be an early priority of my administration.
Q. What do you plan to do about the fire services agreement negotiations?
A. The city and county have selected a consultant and to provide us with an updated valuation of the fire services provided outside of the city. I will be bringing this consultant to City Council and asking for them and to help fund the cost of the valuation.
And once the consultants work is done, it will be up to city and county leaders to settle on a value of the service provided and on a path toward compensating the city for the services we provide beyond our borders.
I think everyone knows and agrees that taxpayers can no longer afford to subsidize this service. My goal is to be able to start addressing the problem in our FY17 budget.
Q. Any notions on how you will engage the City Council?
A. They will be my partners in making Salisbury the capital of the Eastern Shore. We are going to start right by holding a goal setting session with mayor, council and lead city staffers on Dec. 4 at Salisbury University.
By clearly developing our goals together from the beginning, I think we will have a more clear shared understanding of how we are progressing.
Q. Economic development and jobs were a campaign discussion point — tell us again your philosophy on this and what the city can do.
A. Economic development is inherently the competition for dollars with other communities. I intend to win that competition. That doesn’t mean we are in a race with Berlin, Lewes, Cambridge.
As we keep learning, our future and our prosperity is intertwined. We are in a competition with similar metro areas to us and other regional metro areas.
The places that we want to be and to beat have figured out that investing in quality of life, culture and place are the perennial winners in the economic development competition.
Those who want to talk about government creating jobs for recruiting large employers have no understanding of economic development.
Talent is mobile and talent is choosing to live in places that have vibrant downtowns, great parks and recreation infrastructure, and great transportation options. Any minute we spend talking about any other aspect of economic development is a minute wasted, and a minute that our competition is pulling further ahead.
My philosophy is simple: results matter. If it works, let’s do it. If it doesn’t work, but politics or dogma insist that we talk about it, we won’t have time for that.
Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at email@example.com