City leaders hold harmonius goal-setting session

In a friendly, cooperative setting, Salisbury officials and concerned residents met at a goal-setting session Friday and talked about the future of — and their love for — the growing city.

Mayor Jake Day, City Council members, Delegate Carl Anderton, city department heads and a few residents attended the event, on the Salisbury University campus.

Facilitator Michelle Ennis of Tri Community Mediation arranged the audience of about 40 in pairs. They were asked to formulate goals, which were shared and written on oversized sheets of paper. Lists were taped to the walls, along with a timeline that attendees were invited to create.

Day called the brainstorming a team effort, to receive input as he, as new mayor, and the City Council, plan for the future.

Anderton said he’d like to see Salisbury become the economic arts and entertainment hub of the Eastern Shore.

City Council President Jack Heath would like free recreation centers for youths. Kevin Lindsay, who ran an unsuccessful bid for City Council but who wants to remain involved, especially liked the idea of not charging for activities.  He said more affordable housing for young couples is needed.

Also mentioned were tackling the heroin problem, taking the plight of immigrants into consideration and helping them access available programs, improving the Wicomico River and ponds for environmental health and recreation, teaching parenting skills to teens and providing transportation to and from jobs.

At Ennis’ direction, participants switched partners and additional goals were explored, such as bringing new industry to the industrial park, finding incentives for businesses to settle in Salisbury, identifying revenue sources for community development projects such as Phase II of the skate park and making Salisbury a thriving mini-metropolis.

Chris Demone, who handles public relations, said leaders should continue to help all educational institutions and make education “the center of everything we do.”

Gains Hawkins, former director of public relations at SU, suggested greater opportunities for workforce development and enhancement of competitive labor.

When someone recommended city leaders take advantage of the city’s proximity to Washington, Baltimore and Dover in an effort to bring defense-related jobs to town, City Councilman Jim Ireton warned some achievements are within the power of the city leaders, but others are not.

The day-long meeting began by Ennis asking what everyone appreciates about Salisbury. Answers ranged from being able to ride a bicycle to work to living among residents who truly care for each other.

There were childhood memories about visiting grandparents and favorite spots to meet.

Day said from the time he was 3 until he was 18 he lived on Forest Lane and found the gully in the back overgrown with bamboo “the best playground.”

“I found myself living back here since late 2008 and shortly after that I had the opportunity to meet our then-new mayor. At that point I was inspired and convinced that you’ve got to get involved if you’re going to change your hometown,” Day said.

Heath, a native of New Jersey, said he noticed when he moved to Salisbury that the city has a strong family atmosphere. Despite arguing within, residents stand together if anybody makes a negative remark, he said.

Ireton talked about watching the mist over the river that drifts to City Park in the spring and fall. “From childhood and even today, I sit right up in bed when I hear the train coming through the town. It’s something that conjures up the snow storms of the ’70s and when Montgomery Ward was downtown,” he said.

Newly elected Councilman Muir Boda, who said he has loved the city “as long as I can remember,” described the beauty of leaves changing along Priscilla Street. “My wife and I chose to live in Salisbury. We chose to live in the Doverdale neighborbood.  We could have gone anywhere, but we chose Salisbury,” he said.

Councilwoman April Jackson, also newly elected, remembered a childhood neighborhood that was nurturing and supportive.  “We always had something to do. I think that’s what we’re missing now … I can see now we’re getting ready to pull Salisbury back where it used to be. I’m ready. Salisbury is an excellent place to live,” she said.

The community is curious to see how a curfew would be implemented and how it would be connected to programs for youth, she added.

Police Chief Barbara Duncan called it “awesome” that she has the opportunity to raise her family and carry out her career in Salisbury. “The work load is tremendous but I wouldn’t do it any other way,” she said, complimenting city leaders for making “some tremendous strides.”

Robby Sheehan, who is employed by SU, grew up in Kent Island and said after he arrived at the university as a student, he developed a fondness for seeing the mayor or police chief at local coffee shops. “It really felt like Cheers,” he said, referring to the TV show and drawing laughter from the audience.

Ralph Piland, director of the Salisbury Zoo, moved to town two years ago and it “was like coming back home,” he said.

Tom Stevenson, city administrator, who joked he spent “four horrible years” in the Marine Corps stationed in Hawaii, said he’s “excited about being part of, not only where Salisbury has been, but where we’re going.”

Fire Chief Rick Hoppes, a native, smiled as he talked about living on Zion Road as a boy, riding his bike, with friends, to City Park to fish, then pedaling home after dark. “We are a small city but we still have that sense of community pride and that’s what endears it to me,” Hoppes said.

Debbie Stam, director of community development, recalled staying in Salisbury after earning her graduate degree, “because I felt it was a really safe place to raise a child.”

Bob Hocutt, president of the Wicomico Environmental Trust, described living on Schumaker Pond, as he does, as “more fun than you can imagine.”

“We live with eagles, herons, turtles, all kinds of fish, boats. You receive many sights from your living room window all day long,” he said.

Hawkins, a runner, praised Salisbury’s lack of hills and won laughter and a good-natured nod from Day when he said, “Mayor, please keep this city flat.”









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