Salisbury Council Fills Vacancy With Familiar Name

SALISBURY – A special City Council session was called on Wednesday afternoon to deliberate and announce candidate Jack Heath would fill the council vacancy left by former Councilwoman Terry Cohen.

Cohen, who was serving her second term, announced her unexpected resignation earlier this month due to major changes in her personal life and a recent tragedy.

Following Cohen’s announcement, the city immediately advertised the vacant position, and according to City Charter, the council had four weeks to choose a replacement.

“It was a very large turnout even for a major city, even for state election 12 candidates is almost unheard of,” Council President Jake Day said on Thursday morning. “We had a lot of interest, and I contribute that to the fact that City Council has been a positive place to work. We have all been getting along and have gotten a lot done in the past 18 months. We were also surprised about the quality of the candidates. We were all happy with the results.”

Day explained once all the applications were received the council went through a whirl wind of interviews with each candidate. The council decided to conduct a blind ballot process, or anonymous balloting, where each council member ranked each candidate by a point system and then combined all scores. After the first round, the top four candidates were chosen, and after further discussion the council conducted another round of rankings where Heath turned out as number one again.

“It was a combination of his experience, his interview and his community service,” Day said. “All three went incredibly well. It also helped that he, and at least one other candidate, had been candidates for public office before, so the public had the opportunity to hear from him and he has had the opportunity to become educated on the issues, so he certainly brought that to the table.”

According to Day, there were no challenges throughout the decision process. He had set aside time for closed session discussion in case of a conflict but no issues arose.

“It is just going to get better,” Day said of the council with the addition of Heath.

Heath, 68, has lived in Salisbury with his family since the 80’s. Besides being the former CEO for Lower Shore Enterprises, he volunteers his time as the president of the Fruitland Volunteer Fire Company, a member of the Rotary Club of Salisbury, a mentor in the Horizons program at The Salisbury School, serves on the Varsity Club Board of Directors, as well as the Mayor’s Foreclosure Taskforce.

When asked if he could fit time into his busy schedule to also serve on the City Council, Heath responded, “Oh yeah, absolutely. There is enough time in the day.”

Heath ran for council in the last election but didn’t come out on top that time around.

“I learned a lot, and I am thrilled to have been chosen out of the 12 candidates that submitted their names for this position,” he said. “When I first ran for office and lost, the council was stagnant and not much had been done for several years. I thought that I could make a difference. Now that the elections are over from a year and half ago, the council has made significant progress, and I thought it would be exciting to be a part of that change. I submitted my name, and given my business background and community activities I think I am in a good position to help them move plans forward.”

Heath found the council’s process to make a selection to be interesting as it followed a sophisticated matrix decision system.

“I think it was as impartial as you can get, and I was obviously pleased with the outcome because it was a good way in doing it by eliminating a lot of the prejudices,” he said.

In Heath’s opinion, his background in business will benefit the council as far as budgeting tax dollars.

“I think the other thing is my knowledge of the community, and my concern and interest in inclusivity and making sure that all people in town have a say,” he said. “The one thing that I would certainly like to see and it is part of the plan is to bring jobs, especially manufacturing jobs into the city. Jobs solve a tremendous amount of problems. When people are working, they are happier. The businesses get to pay taxes, and that takes the burden off of the individuals in the community. For us to achieve our goals, it is going to take investment by bringing businesses into the community that can share that investment. I am excited and I can’t wait to get going.”