Mayor Jack Heath settles into office, lays out vision for Salisbury
SALISBURY, Md. – Less than two weeks after being sworn in, Salisbury Mayor Jack Heath is still unpacking and settling in to the office. But more than that, he’s getting to work on city priorities.
“If the team that we have wasn’t in place, I probably wouldn’t have accepted the position, because it takes the team to make the dream,” said Mayor Heath in a one-on-one interview with 47 ABC on Tuesday. “Surround yourself with great people, give them the resources they need, and then get the heck out of the way.”
As Mayor Heath accepts the new role, he’s also inheriting big projects. One of those tasks is Vision Zero, aimed at eliminating all traffic fatalities in city limits.
“We are going to focus very, very much on pedestrian crosswalks, and sidewalks. That’s going to be a big challenge for us,” said Mayor Heath. “Everything will be ADA-compliant. We’ll have sidewalks where there have been none. That, from a pedestrian point of view is going to significantly help things.”
Mayor Heath admits work on Vision Zero has been slow going. However, he says a recently awarded $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Safe Streets and Roads for All program will help accelerate the mission.
“It’s going to help tremendously, not to have to worry about where those funds are coming from,” said Mayor Heath. “Yes, there’s a small match that has to be done. But, in comparison to the output that we can get from that grant, it’s fantastic.”
Here Is Home
Another big task currently underway is Salisbury’s Here Is Home Initiative. As of November 2022, 1,500 affordable housing units are under construction in Salisbury, with a commitment for 7,000 more.
However, Mayor Heath says the key to accelerating the project could be getting the private sector to make a stronger commitment to completing affordable homes at affordable prices.
“Competition is always good. The reason it’s good is it keeps people honest. With the amount of available housing we have right now, the competition is very weak,” said Mayor Heath.
Mayor Heath says boosting competition in that arena will be crucial, as one of the City’s sole sources of revenue is property taxes.
When it comes to the local economy, attracting and retaining new businesses downtown won’t come without challenges, says Mayor Heath.
Taking advantage of lessons learned during COVID-19 and looking back to Salisbury’s roots as an industry town, says Mayor Heath, will prove to be crucial on that front.
Mayor Heath points to the computer chip industry, and its recent shortages and supply chain issues, as an example of why more manufacturing is needed in the area. He plans to work with community stakeholders, like Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development, to balance industry with small business.
Public Safety as a Top Priority
Priority number one for Mayor Heath is public safety. “Our citizens deserve to feel comfortable, safe, and we need to do whatever we need to do to make that happen,” he said.
This focus comes as Salisbury currently has dozens of vacancies across its public safety agencies. Mayor Heath says filling those spots will require innovative thinking and solutions.
“Whether you’re talking about the private sector or the public sector, we are in the most challenging time ever in terms of trying to attract individuals,” said Mayor Heath.
In particular, Mayor Heath says first responders are being drawn to larger municipalities for better pay. This, amid a worker shortage.
“We’re competing, not just against the lack of individuals that want to work,” said Mayor Heath. “But, we’re also competing against cities that have more power than us to provide the salaries and the wages required.”
Jack Heath’s Salisbury
Mayor Heath says he hasn’t had much time yet to think about what legislation will come out of his office first; he’s been busy meeting with City department heads to get their game plan together.
When Salisburians head to the polls to elect a new mayor in 2024, Mayor Heath says he intends to be one of their choices.
Mayor Heath says as he settles into the role, his office door will always be open to constituents.