SALISBURY — Two-term Salisbury City Councilwoman Terry Cohen announced her unexpected resignation at the end of the council’s work session Monday.
The reasons that Cohen, a past president of the council, gave for her resignation include changes in her personal life and recent tragedy. The rest of the council will now have until early next month to vote to appoint a replacement council member.
In a short but emotional statement, Cohen told the rest of the council and those in the audience, including family members, that she loved public service but at this time could no longer devote herself to the office to the degree she seeks. Even so, her more than seven years on the council, and the trust she’s been shown by her constituents, has been an honor, according to Cohen.
“However, over the course of the last 10 months or so, my family and I have experienced some major life changes, including a recent tragic loss,” she said. “What lies ahead for us will demand such an extent of my time and attention that my continued service as a council member will not be possible at a level that I demand of myself. My family and I have discussed numerous possibilities to try to enable my service to continue until the end of my second term, but no option does justice to my family or my service to you.”
Cohen made a point not to ruminate on past political victories or dredge up any grievances. There might be a time for reflecting on the highlights of her time in office and some of the issues she wished had been resolved over her two terms, she said, but the purpose of her announcement was to be succinct.
While Cohen will be stepping out of the political spotlight for the time being, she ended her announcement of resignation on an optimistic note, reciting Hillel the Elder’s famous statement on self-identity.
“’If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’” she quoted. “’If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?’”
Another bright spot for Cohen in the otherwise melancholy announcement was a desire to return to public service in some capacity in the future if time and circumstance permit.
“To the people of Salisbury, thank you for giving me this incredible opportunity to serve you,” she said. “Even after my time on council is done, as my situation may permit in the future, I hope to continue to assist you in whatever way that I can.”
With Cohen’s last official day being Friday, Aug. 8, it will be up to the remaining four members on the council to vote to appoint her replacement. They will have until Sept. 5 to make the appointment.
“We don’t know yet the process, whether they will meet next week or if they will discuss it after the council meeting,” said Kim Nichols, city clerk. “We just haven’t heard yet what that it.”
Each of the remaining council members will be able to submit their own nominee. Those nominees have to meet the same qualifications as any other perspective councilmember, i.e. they must be at least 21 years of age, a registered voter in Salisbury and a resident of their district for at least a year.
While Cohen’s announcement came as a shock, the city does have experience with replacing council members. The most recent case was in 2003 when Councilman C.T. Webster passed and his son Richard was appointed to replace him, though the later only served about a month before the next election. In 1999, Jim Ireton, the current mayor and former council member, resigned his seat and was replaced by Bill Stacey. Coincidently, Ireton’s resignation went into effect on Aug. 4 of that year, the same date as Cohen’s announcement.