As election day on Nov. 7 draws closer, three mayoral candidates continue to vie for Salisbury voter approval. Among them is Jermichael Mitchell, a homegrown community leader hoping to bring transparency back to Salisbury city government and make sure those frequently overlooked in our community have their voices heard.
Mitchell is a former local sports star who says his claim to fame was always basketball, especially after winning a state title with Wicomico High School. Following high school, he immediately started coaching. Since then, Mitchell has served the Salisbury community in a variety of ways.
Growing up in the church, Mitchell was surrounded by service, which he says pushed him to pursue service in his professional life.
“I grew up in church, so service was always a focus,” he said. “I was able to start my own non-profit called ‘kids rock’ at the time, a basketball program that went very well and is still in existence to this day.”
As Mitchell’s role as a local leader grew, he served in other positions including work in juvenile services. For two years he worked for the city under former Mayor Jake Day, a role he says showed him a new perspective on government that pushed him to run for Mayor.
“They [Jake Day] created a position for me called the Youth Development Specialist,” he said. “In those two years I saw some things from the inside that were just different, buddy systems and people getting hired not because of competence, but because they knew somebody.”
After seeing first-hand a local city government in action, Mitchell felt the call to run for office, on a platform of inclusion, representation and transparency.
Among other pressing issues facing the city, the relationship between Salisbury University and the city it calls home is a prominent one. Mitchell thinks this relationship is crucial for Salisbury and hopes it can grow into more than a business one.
“I think they [the city] have a great business relationship with the University, it’s that community aspect we need to fix,” he said. “I believe there’s a ton of students on campus that would love to be mentors, we have community centers that should be flooded with SU students.”
Mitchell aims to revitalize the relationships between the city and local educational institutions, such as SU and UMES, to help nurture the community and encourage local retention.
Another important issue facing the city is the housing crisis. Mitchell hopes to fight this crisis by fighting poverty, especially in the communities he says we frequently overlook, though it increasingly impacts the average worker.
“I would say that we forget about our neighbors, we forget about the other cultures that live here,” he emphasized. “I have a people’s agenda, poverty is what I’m fighting.”
“What I’ve learned in 2023 is that poverty has no face, the average working person is facing poverty.”
The city of Salisbury can’t run from the presence of poverty, and he thinks the city needs to refocus on transparency to combat it. According to Mitchell, the city of Salisbury is not free from the presence of political corruption.
“There are partnerships and secret things that happen with every city, and they’re here,” he said. “We have big time companies that are on boards and in places you wouldn’t believe.”
“Perdue, the Millers, Gillis and Gilkerson, they have large amounts of money and sit on important boards.”
Mitchell says it’s these relationships that allowed for events like the closure and move of the Ward Museum, along with curiously cheap property sales to developers who are friends of the city. This leads him to question where the power in the city really lies.
"We [the city] just rented a building that we used to own, we sold the building for $75,000," he said. "We just rented it for $90,000 a year, so we’re going to invest $1.5 million over fifteen years in a building we used to own, something that we sold to a friend developer for cheap."
“If they’re on every board of trustees, who’s really running the city, the mayor or the businesses?”
While the presence of alleged corruption in the city government is alarming, Mitchell believes that his focus on community driven leadership will help bring trust and transparency back to our local government. Importantly, Mitchell recognizes that none of these ideas matter if the people don’t get out and vote, even if he is not the candidate they choose.
“The biggest piece for me is people using their power to vote,” he said. “I may not be the candidate and I’m fine with that.”
“People fought long and hard for voting power, the power is in the voice, the voice is the vote.”
By LIAM MCGINNES
Editor in Chief
Featured image courtesy of Liam McGinnes