‘It’s important work’: Brian Miller reflects on 12-year term on Salisbury City Council – Salisbury Post
By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY – Brian Miller made a quote for Abraham Lincoln during his first campaign for Salisbury City Council in 2009: âI love to see a man proud of where he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place is proud of him.
Now looking back on his 12-year tenure on the board, Miller said he hopes he lives up to it.
Miller, who works for Truist Financial (formerly BB&T), attended his last board meeting last week. This is the first time since 1996, he said, that he has not had the responsibility of sitting on a board or a commission, teaching Sunday school or coaching La Petite. League. For now, he’s considering resting and unplugging as he reconnects with what’s important to him and searches for other passions.
Prior to his first election to city council in 2009, Miller spent time at the Salisbury Planning Board, which he says is an ideal training ground for council members. During this time, he contributed to the drafting of the current city planning ordinance, which greatly facilitated planning decisions.
Miller’s entry and departure from city council is marked both by the Great Recession of 2009 and the ongoing pandemic in 2021. During this time, Miller was involved in many important decisions, most notably the fiber optic network Fibrant City, Bell Tower Green Park and the Empire Hotel redevelopment project, which is still underway.
Miller considers this to be the âgood marksâ of his tenure. While he credits City Manager Lane Bailey and board member David Post for resolving financial uncertainty around Fibrant, the Empire Hotel has kept him coming back every election cycle. Miller was part of the banking coalition that helped Downtown Salisbury Inc. buy the hotel property, and now he remains a member of DSI’s Empire Hotel Redevelopment Task Force which works with developer Brett Kreuger. based in Charlotte to restore the space to a boutique hotel.
Miller said it was difficult to compare the problems board members faced when he started with the problems today because “it’s a different world.”
âI’ve been in this market for over 25 years and everyone keeps saying we’re Charlotte’s next wave,â Miller said. “Maybe it’s finally coming.”
The 12 years on the board have helped Miller grow both as a leader and as a person. He gave advice to board members last week at his last meeting, which he says speaks to his own approach to leadership and decision-making. Once upon a time, Miller would have been more resistant to retreats and council trips, feeling like they weren’t an ideal use of the city’s resources. But his message to the board last week was to take the retreats and get to know each other before they have to make decisions together.
“I see why now, after serving, would we have had a better relationship in some of the previous boards I was on if we had taken the time to get to know each other?” I think the answer is yes, âMiller said.
Plus, while he already feels like an open person to different perspectives, Miller says his time on the board has made him more open.
The Confederate monument âFameâ is one example. In 2020, Miller was one of five council members who unanimously agreed to move the monument to a historic North Lee Street cemetery after it was declared a danger to public safety at the height of the protests.
Ahead of that vote, Miller said he didn’t initially interpret the statue like many others did. But his point of view has evolved to believe that the statue is not worth anyone’s life and that it should not serve as a source of division in the city.
âSomewhere along the way, I realized it’s not necessarily your perspective that matters,â Miller said. âIt’s the fact that this other perspective exists. I said in council meetings that this statue is not worth a person’s life.
He is proud to be part of the board that made the decision to move him.
Miller said his approach before every meeting is to prepare to make a decision while still being open to different perspectives, because that means you’ve done your homework and the meetings go on. If the board members want to do something, it’s best to find two more people on board, because it’s about building consensus, politics aside, Miller said.
âI can tell you that there have been many, many timesâ¦ where my initial hunch ‘this is how I’m going to approach this’ has been altered based on testimony or comments from other board members,â he said. Miller said. “And if you dig, you’re going to miss it.”
If people end up as a board member in the minority of a vote, Miller said “move on” because there are a lot more issues to be solved.
Miller says he has high hopes for the new council, which includes Mayor Karen Alexander, Pro Mayor Tem Tamara Sheffield, Post and newcomers Anthony Smith and Harry McLaughlin Jr. Miller feels “a common desire to do well” and is convinced that they are the kind of people who will work hard to work well together.
âIt’s important work,â Miller said.
The top priorities he sees for the board are to stay ahead of flooding issues at the water supply pumping station on the Yadkin River. Miller said there was a grant pledge that would be a major victory for the city. In addition, residential development in the downtown area should be encouraged, and he predicts that the number of available units will double over the next five years depending on current projects, including the Empire Hotel and the Bell Block building. .
While he never found the best approach, Miller sees the need to further reallocate the city’s aging housing stock across the city. The Community Development Corporation is doing it now, but Miller said an important question might be “how do we adapt this? “
Miller recalled his tenure with The Post this week during a walk in Bell Tower Green Park. It is the site where he began his banking career and the last major project of his tenure on the board. He calls it “our community’s living room”.
“Twenty years from now, if I live somewhere else and come back to Salisbury, this is where I’m going to come,” Miller said.
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.