Next City isn’t just a news website. We are a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities. Part of how we do that is by connecting our readers to urban changemakers and holding an annual Vanguard conference bringing together 40 top young urban leaders. Jake Day is a member of our 2013 Vanguard class.
Name: Jake Day
Current Occupation: City Council President, Salisbury, Maryland
Current City: Salisbury
Twitter Tag: @jacobrday
I drink: coffee – Americano (or sometimes a big sugary latte)
I am an: extrovert for sure, but I love my quiet decompression time
I get to work by: car, but dedicated bike lanes that reach within a block of my house are being completed this year!
The area I grew up in is: a small city in a rural region
What is your favorite city and why? Asheville, because it gives me something to aspire to for Salisbury. It’s got quirk and grit and challenges, but it has the cultural assets and attitude of a Mastiff in the body of a Yorkie. They’ve also figured out the right way to brand geography: place (Downtown Asheville) and region (the indispensable gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains).
Did you always want to be a local elected official? Well, I knew from childhood that I wanted to be an architect/urban planner. Cities and buildings and their design have always fascinated me. More and more their functionality and vibrancy have become my obsession and so elected leadership has been a logical mechanism for affecting positive change. Honest reflection would expose that the seven-year-old me who was writing letters in crayon to President-elect George H.W. Bush had a better than 50 percent chance of getting into politics one day.
Jake Day and Matt Drew (president of BikeSBY) lay markings for Salisbury’s first dedicated bike lane.
What do you like most about your current job? I’m living my childhood dream without knowing it. I was always keenly aware of the comparative progress of my hometown. Today, I’m working on that daily. What’s best about being in my position is that so much of what I do on a daily basis is not in my job description — whether it’s working on enhancing the arts scene or supporting local business collaboration or engaging people in community design.
What is the coolest project you worked on? One of my top priorities was to take our city’s vacant historic fire house in the center of downtown and to repurpose it. Over the course of the last 18 months, we put it out for bid, sold it, and local developers renovated it into a music venue now operated by a major regional music venue operator. It’s gorgeous and it is breathing life into our city. It’s enough to bring tears to your eyes to see it pulse with energy.
What’s the best professional advice you have received? Surround yourself with people who you know are more talented than you. There’s no shortage of them because we all have different talents. I am confident that for those of us working in local government — the more people we empower with an opportunity to be heard, the more people we will learn have talent and wisdom to contribute than our often closed, narrow processes allow.
What career advice would you give an emerging urban leader? It’s great to make money — and there’s nothing more distracting than toiling without being able to pay the bills — but what is most important is for you to figure out what you do well and what fulfills you and to spend every ounce of effort you can on that. That investment will pay dividends.