By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY – In the city’s inaugural mayoral race, Pro Mayor Tem Al Heggins says she wants to capitalize on a work-in-the-aisle record and experience as a veteran to make the big ideas come true. she has for Salisbury.
This year will mark the first election where voters in Salisbury will be able to directly elect a mayor thanks to a successful voting measure in 2019. Heggins is competing with Mayor Karen Alexander.
Heggins made history in 2017 when she was the first black woman elected to city council, and made history again when she was appointed mayor of the city in 2017.
Heggins’ background includes roles as a teacher and university administrator, small business owner, and human relations manager for the Town of High Point. She ran for the North Carolina House of Representatives last year against Republican Representative Harry Warren.
She is also an army veteran. Heggins said she relied on this experience when she was running the city.
“When you’re working with your platoon or battalion or brigade, when you’re on the move, you don’t want to leave anyone behind. So you want to make sure that this whole collective group isn’t moving faster than the slowest person in that group, ”Heggins said. “As the leader of this group, it’s my job to make sure that we get the information out the way it should be … that we care for people in a way that they should be taken care of. physically and emotionally so that we all move forward together. And that when that tide comes up, all of us are on this boat as it is lifted.
Heggins said being mayor means having big ideas and sharing those ideas with council members and members of the public. Collaboration between city leaders and all members of the public is at the heart of its platform, which presents a vision to reimagine, reshape and restart the city.
Among the top priorities, Heggins said, are public safety and a collaborative effort to reduce crime. She added that city leaders should ensure law enforcement officers and firefighters have sufficient resources and city and public support for community policing. She made reference to Fire Station No.6 which opened on Cedar Springs Road in March and how firefighters have to work 48-hour shifts to cover the station, which requires more shifts in the budget.
Police funding, Heggins says, should include innovative training, best practices and positions for mediators, community liaisons and additional victim advocates.
Another central issue for Heggins is the implementation of participatory budgeting while the annual expenditure document is being developed. The majority of what the council uses to fund services is with taxpayer dollars, even when it receives grants, she added, which requires more input from taxpayers.
“Moving on to the 2022-2023 fiscal budget, it is time for Salisbury to embark on participatory budgeting,” Heggins said. “And what that means is that we have a more inclusive, more transparent process that really listens to what our residents say the needs are and how we need to allocate our funds in the city.”
Likewise, Heggins wants the public to be involved in the city’s selection and hiring of a new manager following Lane Bailey’s retirement in December. She said it’s important to have a manager who understands a public participatory budgeting process, is transparent and well-versed in civic engagement, and knows what it means to have social and racial equity.
Heggins has ideas for reshaping the city, which includes expanding the Neighborhood Leaders Alliance into a Neighborhood Congress with representatives from each neighborhood.
“These neighborhood voices can help guide the city on how best to spend public funds,” Heggins said. “It’s about that shared power because that’s what it’s meant to be.”
Heggins also sees the need to reshape the city’s parks and recreation opportunities by improving the city’s cycle paths and increasing the ability to walk throughout the city to continue to promote active and healthy lifestyles.
Heggins said she sees an opportunity to jumpstart the downtown economy by allowing entrepreneurs to use the space for pop-up events to showcase their goods and products. This will attract more people, who can then visit the downtown brick and mortar spaces.
“So it’s a win-win,” she said.
Heggins also plans to revive the city’s commitment to fairness, which requires considering historically underutilized businesses, known as HUBs, as a priority when contracting with suppliers for services. city events and projects.
The city passed a reconciliation resolution in 2019, which included a commitment to provide an annual equity report. Heggins said the city must keep this promise.
“For me, fairness means that the power really belongs to our people and that the town hall remains the house of the people, ”she added.
Additionally, Heggins said the city should complete the process started in 2019 to establish the School Justice Partnership, which is a collaborative effort between Rowan County and the state to “keep children in and out of school. courthouse ”. Heggins helped launch the program as mayor in 2019, when two events were held to educate the public about the school-to-prison pipeline and discuss next steps with community stakeholders. A group of stakeholders drafted an agreement relating to misconduct in the school system.
Heggins said she takes pride in having a proven track record in working across the aisle, adding that being straightforward and a person of their word are her strengths.
“When you represent your city, you are talking about the greatness of your city,” Heggins said. “But you’re not afraid to talk about what some of these shortcomings might be if they did arise and how we are addressing them. And I think with this framework of re-imagining, remodeling, and rebooting, it’s clear that not only are we working and building on some of the resources that we already have in place, but we’re also thinking outside the box by including the public voice throughout our city because our city is rich in diversity and perspective.
Heggins currently chairs the 13th Congressional Democratic District of North Carolina and is a member of the League of North Carolina Municipalities, the Poor Campaign, and the NC Local Progress Organizing Committee.
She and her husband, Isaac, who is also a veteran, have seven children between them and six grandchildren, and another is on his way.
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.