Day says Salisbury is well-positioned for progress

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day said he doesn’t know what to make yet of his new community label.

“I’ve got to admit something, I’m not completely comfortable yet with that title ─ mayor,” Day told the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon last week.

“Around the office, people say ‘Hey Mayor!’ ─- as if it’s the name. And I find that to be very strange. So I’m trying to get people to call me Jake, but they won’t do it.”

Though he’s not used to his new title, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some specific promises for what will happen while he’s called “Mr. Mayor.”

Day said he defined his leadership style on his first day in office in a note sent to each of the city’s 424 employees.

“You’ll learn about me that I am fiercely competitive, that I have unrelenting high standards and I want nothing but the best for Salisbury,” he said.

“It may be no secret that I’m a pretty optimistic guy. I admit that. But we won’t achieve those high standards if we beat each other up, and for beating up our partners.

“I’m also driven by results. The happiness of our citizens and the level that we meet our goals that we set forth are going to be my metrics and my barometer of success.”

In his Chamber address ─ his first extended talk to a local crowd since being sworn in last Monday ─ Day touted Salisbury’s economic, demographic and cultural position within the state and said the conditions are ripe for true progress.

Reviewing U.S. Census data for Salisbury’s regional Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area, Day noted that Salisbury jumped from a 150th size ranking to 135th, thanks to a 4.3 percent population growth over the last few years.

That ties Salisbury with Anchorage, Alaska, which has municipal area 10 times the size of the city of Salisbury.

“That speaks to the interdependence and the dependence of our neighbors,” he said, “and how our economies all act as one.”

He said the numbers show that Salisbury is statistically younger, with a median age of 28.8 years ─ “a full decade younger than the rest of the state.”

The city is more diverse, with a full 44 percent of the city being classified as minority residents. And, said Day, “We are educated and getting more educated ─ high school attainment rate in this community is now over 85.5 percent. The graduation rate is climbing.”

Day said: “So now it’s my honor to lead ─ and what a place to lead.”

He also talked up Salisbury’s role as the economic hub.

“Cities and the landscape of cities that we have are our economic engine. Not just here but everywhere,” he said. “They are where we go to exchange goods and services. That’s what they’re for ─ that’s why they exist. That’s why Salisbury exists.”

Citing economic data, Day said: “In Wicomico County, 93 percent of the jobs and 91 percent of the economic activity occur within the city limits of Salisbury. And that number has only increased every year for the last 20 years. Every action we take in the coming months then has to be focused on ensuring that we’re all starting to feel it.

“I’m not sure we are right now. I’m not sure we’re all feeling it. And that means that growth, that sustainability those positive things aren’t impacting everyone equally. So we need to feel it. So every action we take in the coming months is going to be designed to increase and improve and revitalize our economy,” he said.

Day said government can help mightily by helping create infrastructure that prompts positive feeling and increases quality-of-life measurements.

“Economic development isn’t what it used to be,” he said. “It includes more activities. It’s now about culture. About quality of life issues. The arts and people. Parks, bike trails, bike lanes. And if you don’t get those right, don’t even talk about workforce development and industry and business development efforts, because you have to have those things to attract anyone.”

Day said Downtown Salisbury redevelopment is paramount.

“We will continue to invest in our core. It’s not a debate anymore ─ there’s no more for and against. We are going to do it, and we’re not going to stop until it’s done.

“It is incumbent upon us to be partners with our developers in our revitalization of our city,” he said.

“A city that doesn’t have life in its heart and soul is part of a dying economy. That heart surgery on our heart is already under way there is blood once again beginning to pump. And that revitalization is beginning to take traction.”

He explained that Downtown won’t look like it did in its glory days, with retail stalwarts like Hess Apparel and Benjamin’s at the center.

“As life returns to our core, it will look different. It’s going to look like what the Millennial generation wants. And why is that important? Because (that) is the largest generation ever ─ more than 90 million people with more buying power than any generation ever.

“Young people are deciding where they want to live before deciding where they want to work. Businesses executives are locating their businesses where the young talent it. So we are already positioned to take advantage.”

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

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