A year after he deployed with the U.S. Army to the Horn of Africa, Salisbury Mayor Jake Day is back in town, but it will be a couple more weeks before he returns in an official capacity.
“For now, I’m not here,” he said.
This week he is unpacking a couple hundred pounds of clothing and gear, easing back into civilian life and getting used to a new house on Camden Avenue that he bought in 2019 and has since undergone extensive renovations. His wife and two young daughters moved into it in January while he was away.
“I’m still just figuring out where the light switches are,” he said.
After that, the family will travel to Disney World before he officially returns to the mayor’s office in mid-May.
Day arrived back in the U.S. after a 24-hour trip from Djibouti with stops in Bulgaria and Germany along the way before finally landing at Fort Hood, Texas. He got to Salisbury on Monday where he surprised his daughters, Lilly and Olivia, at their school.
In Africa, Day – who was promoted to the rank of major during his deployment -- worked as an information operations officer with Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa in a 12-country region. He spent time in Somalia and Djibouti with a focus on fighting violent extremist organizations such as Isis and Al-Shabaab.
He said he cannot talk about the specific details of his mission. Most days were spent in a secure compartmentalized information facility, or SCIF.
Day enlisted in the Army in 2009 before his 2015 election to mayor. His Maryland National Guard unit, the 110th Information Operations Battalion, is on ongoing rotation to support the effort in Africa and Day knew he would eventually be deployed. He was part of the 13th team from the battalion to be sent overseas.
The unit is tasked with integration and synchronization of Information-Related Capabilities, including cyber, psychological operations, electronic warfare, civil affairs and others.
Meanwhile, back in Salisbury, two major projects that started under his watch – the Main Street revitalization and the Riverside traffic circle -- were completed.
The Main Street project moved block by block from Route 13 to Mill Street over a four-year period and was finally completed in November. The roundabout, which connects Riverside Drive, West Carroll Street, Mill Street and Camden Avenue, opened last July.
“I just drove on the roundabout for the first time,” he said.
Leaving Salisbury was hard, but Day said he sought advice from other elected officials who had been deployed, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg who went to Afghanistan in 2014 while serving as mayor of South Bend, Ind., and U.S. Congressman Anthony Brown, a former Maryland Lieutenant Governor, who was sent to Iraq in 2004 while he was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates.
Both gave him the same advice: Trust your team and do your job over there.
“They did a bang-up job,” Day said of City Administrator Julia Glanz and the rest of the city staff. “I feel good.”
Once he’s back at work, the mayor plans to focus on the city’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, economic development and the surging real estate market to keep Salisbury’s economy and population growing.
He expects to give a formal address to the public soon after his return. He also will hold an official opening of the Newton Street Community Center which is expected to start operating as soon as this summer. And at the end of June, he will take over as president of the Maryland Municipal League.
He also looks forward to the construction of a footbridge at the end of Camden Street in July and the third and final year of the National Folk Festival in the city. And as Salisbury and the rest of the world emerge from the year-long pandemic, Day expects there will be many more projects, festivals and other events announced soon.
“The big thing to know is the mission that we’ve been on isn’t going to change,” he said. “We’re pretty laser-focused.”