Dave Treme wakes about 5:30 each morning, showers, walks the dog and, for at least an
Every day, he prays for
Salisbury, the city that has made him its top disciple for the past 14 years.
In a personal moment and almost sheepishly, the
city manager acknowledges that he also prays for the mayor, councilmen, department heads,
employees and all citizens of Salisbury.
And hes only getting started. Treme follows
a pattern of prayer an expansion of the Lords Prayer that he teaches
Wednesday nights at his church.
Mixed in with the reams of city-related papers in
his briefcase are books on prayer: most recently, The Jericho Hour,
Becoming a Prayer Warrior and Releasing the Prayer Anointing.
Hell take his lunch hour many times
and come over to the church and pray, says the Rev. Glynn Dickens, Tremes
pastor at Rowan Christian Assembly.
Treme is an inward-looking man in a job that earns
considerable outside attention. The past year, 1999, was no exception.
While city government experienced its share of
success, disappointment and challenges, Treme personally had a higher profile year than
usual. With that in mind, the Post Editorial Board chose him as its Newsmaker of the
In 1999, Treme won praise for his method of
involving the community in helping him choose a new Salisbury police chief, Chris Herring.
With his choice, however, Treme heard several
citizens criticize him for not hiring a homegrown applicant.
Treme also became the public lightning rod when he
retroactively enforced a personnel policy of not allowing married couples to work in the
same city department.
The decision meant the loss of police and fire
department spouses with decades of experience. At the time, Treme called it the hardest
personnel decision he ever had to make but one he felt was necessary for the
Critics characterized Tremes tactics as
heavy-handed, though the city gave the affected spouses a year to secure another job and
offered extensive help in finding them new positions with the city or elsewhere.
For one of the few times, Tremes performance
became an election issue, albeit a minor one. Treme also had come to symbolize to many
taxpayers questionable city spending on community park land, a new city hall, the old
Towne Mall, the former Flowers Bakery and an unpopular annexation.
But when asked to grade Tremes job as city
manager during the election, all five incumbent Salisbury City Council members gave him an
In December, those same council members, all
re-elected, raised Tremes salary to $104,844 a year.
Hes a real thinker, says former
Mayor Margaret Kluttz. He carefully moves through what the priorities are and when
its important to go to the mat for the city. Its not his job to be
Much of what city government tackled in 1999
reflects principles Treme has preached since coming to Salisbury in February 1986.
Tremes blueprint for managing the city
stresses public-private partnerships, for example. The city made a major public commitment
to the Flowers Bakery Redevelopment Area downtown this year, hoping its investment in
infrastructure will augment some $13 million in private redevelopment.
The 314-acre Salisbury Community Park and Athletic
Complex, under construction off Hurley School Road, has combined $3 million in
voter-approved bond money with $1.5 million in state and private contributions.
Treme also lives by a philosophy that citizens
accept hard decisions when they have been part of the process. He routinely quotes the
proverb that there is wisdom in a multitude of counsel.
Treme put his finalists for police chief through a
day of interviews with four different citizen committees and then asked those committees
for their favorites.
Before even reaching that stage, city consultants
interviewed Salisburians and asked what they were looking for in a new police chief.
It carries over. Since his hiring, Herring has
asked citizens to develop a crime control plan for his department.
Improvements in the Park Avenue neighborhood began
taking shape in 1999, thanks to the drive of citizens in that area. The city, foundations
and non-profit groups stand as their partners, providing the funds for a complete
renovation of Cannon Park, restoration of Tar Branch creek, construction of affordable
houses on North Shaver Street and renovation of dilapidated homes on East Cemetery Street.
Armor of God
Treme also weathered major disappointments in
1999. The N.C. Court of Appeals recently ruled that the city erred in its biggest
annexation attempt ever, reversing an earlier trial courts decision supporting the
Without another reversal by the state Supreme
Court, the city will have to start over its effort to expand its tax base to the west and
Early in the year, Treme learned of the closing of
three industrial plants in Salisbury, including the citys biggest water customer,
Cone Mills. While the losses eased some capacity problems, they also meant the loss of
Council offset those losses by raising water bills
after Treme and his staff presented the sobering news.
As part of his morning prayers, Treme likes to
clothe himself with the armor of God, a shield of faith helpful in these
trying times. People who know him say he relies heavily on his faith as he takes on the
issues of the city.
Treme describes himself as a Christian under
His faith filters out into every area of his
life, Dickens, his pastor, says. He is a man not only of great intellect but
with great wisdom in dealing with issues and people.
Treme co-chairs the prayer ministry at Rowan
Christian Assembly. The church has prayer and intercession before its services on Sunday
mornings, Sunday evenings and Wednesday nights.
As part of the prayer ministry, Treme visits
congregation members at home and prays for those in need. He also teaches Sunday School.
I would consider him one of the most dynamic
lay persons that I have ever worked with in the ministry, Dickens says. He is
very stable, strong and has a tenacity in sticking with those things he has a firm belief
Kluttz, who served on council for eight years,
including six as mayor, says Tremes religion and family come first in his life but
his faith, for one, never interfered with his job.
Its just very strong, very personal
and very foremost in his life in guiding his morals and convictions, Kluttz says.
Thats part of who Dave Treme is. But I think hes also a very bright and
intelligent individual whos been given the gift of being a good thinker.
Bill Hallman oversees operations at the Civic
Center and has been a friend of Tremes for about nine years. They served together on
the Teen Action Council, an organization serving the countys youth.
Hes a man of faith, number one, and a
man of integrity, Hallman says. Hes a people person, also. Hes
genuinely concerned about Salisbury and the people of Salisbury. He wants the very best
quality of lifestyle for everyone and makes it a point to hear what people say.
Hallman adds that Treme makes himself accessible,
is a leader rather than follower and knows how to get the best out of people.
Hes an encourager gracious
day! Hallman says.
Treme, now 52, believes he has changed
considerably from the young man who came to Salisbury from his city administrators
job in Georgetown, S.C.
I think, over the time, I have
mellowed, he says, crediting a deepened relationship with Christ.
Treme says he is more comfortable with who he is
and the role he plays in local government. He describes himself as a more positive person
than he was 14 years ago. Looking back, Treme says he had a brashness that assumed hard
work could conquer any problem.
When he came to Salisbury, Treme brought
goal-setting with him. Within a a few months, he took council members on a Winston-Salem
retreat at which leaders reached their first real consensus on the direction the city
wanted to take.
From that point, we became more focused as a
city, Treme says. Thats the basis of my working with elected officials.
Thats the only way I know to be successful.
Treme next established the framework toward
getting all city employees working on these common goals, as well as their own. The
goal-setting has become doctrine in the city and spread to other government agencies and
organizations in the county.
Treme found another benefit.
I wanted to be evaluated on the goals that
City Council set, he says.
Tremes other management philosophies include
employee problem-solving, which pushes down decision making to workers in the field.
He also has emphasized professional standards,
whether it be a Class 2 fire rating, national accreditation for the police department, an
A-1 bond rating or certificates of excellences for city finances. Kluttz describes him as
an extraordinarily professional person.
Dickens adds, He has a clear-cut vision
concerning the development of the city of Salisbury. Thats been one of the most
impressive things about him that Ive observed over the years.
Council members often hear Treme speak of
levels of service. He gives council options on the levels of service it could
provide to citizens and what each level costs.
Through the years, Treme also has pushed the city
to stay technologically in step with the private world. Its something he takes pride
He has commanded an enormous respect from
the community at large when they look at the long-term accomplishments of this man,
Raised in Columbia, S.C., Treme came from a
disciplined family, owing to his fathers career in the Army. His parents taught him,
his three brothers and a sister to value education, church and books.
They were never one for handouts. No one was ever
late to dinner. Their father taught them how to use the resources at hand, and you
dont quit early, Treme says.
Only if you were sick did you miss
church, he adds.
Relatives often sent cousins to the Treme
household for a year of adjustment to get them on the right track.
After his father, a retired Army major, died when
Treme was 19, his mother went back to school at age 46. She earned her college degree and
began teaching public school at age 50.
We were not easily discouraged, Treme
says of his family. We felt like we were overcomers.
Treme became student body president in high
school. In his senior year, the yearbook labels him best school citizen.
Always interested in leadership, he won the S.C. Elks Leadership Award in high school
before applying to Harvard and the University of South Carolina.
Treme considered three career paths: the law, the
ministry and local government. He says he accepted the Lord at age 9 and had deepening
experiences at age 22, 38 and 50.
Treme recalls first considering a career as city
manager when his mother showed him a library book on careers.
I had never heard of a city manager but
ended up feeling that was my calling, Treme says.
Tremes early employment gave clues to his
future. With a loan from his father, Treme bought a lawn mower at age 16 and quickly set
up a summer service for more than 30 lawns, priced at either $3 or $5 a mowing.
Because of the number, he had to subcontract many
of the lawns to friends.
I always tried to do one more thing than the
customer asked, Treme recalls. Id try to give them 110 percent
He majored in journalism at the University of
South Carolina with a minor in political science. He followed up with a masters
degree in public administration.
When he came to Salisbury, the young Treme already
had 12 years of experience as city administrator in Mauldin, S.C., and Georgetown.
His faith always served as the foundation for
Ive tried it without Him, and
Ive tried it with Him, Treme says, and this way works best.
This was the place
Not surprisingly, Treme prayed before and after
his interview for the Salisbury job.
As I approached the city limits, I felt that
this was the place I was going to be city manager, he recalls. Somehow, I knew
I was going to be here.
At the time, Treme already had interviewed for the
city managers job at Staunton, Va., as part of his job search for a mid-sized town
in the Southeast. Salisbury had received 124 applicants from 32 different states.
Treme couldnt ignore his overwhelming
feeling that Salisbury was calling him.
It didnt surprise me when they offered
me the job, he says.
Over the years, other cities in and out of North
Carolina have asked Treme to apply for their city manager positions. Treme says he has
given prayerful consideration to those requests, but I dont know
that Ive been released yet.
Ive always known when it was time to
Treme and his wife, Karen, have a son, Robert, and
daughter, Julianne. Robert works in labor relations for General Motors in Michigan, and
Julianne is a junior economics major at Elon College.
Treme applied his goal-setting approach at home,
often sitting down with his children and mapping out some of the things they wanted to
accomplish. The father served as facilitator of sorts.
When you write them down or talk about them,
they get done, Treme says of individual goals.
Treme credits his wife for doing the hard work of
making sure things were done after the family goals were set.
Beyond church, Rotary Club and professional
organizations he strongly believes in, Treme has few outside interests beyond his family
and work. He routinely consults the Bible and reads an inspirational book every week to 10
Im into seeking the Lord, Treme
says, describing it as checking in with the Source. Im praying all
the time. Praying is no more than talking to the Lord.
On a few occasions, Treme might venture onto the
golf course with Councilmen Bill Burgin and Scott Maddox and landscaper Johnny Safrit.
The golf is lousy, Treme says,
but the fellowship and fun is at a high level.
Todays more positive, grounded Treme
expresses optimism for Salisburys future, believing each community has its time and
season and Salisburys has arrived. The key will be managed growth, not growth for
growths sake, Treme says.
I feel like God has blessed our
community, he adds.