James Chisom, a former Salem City School Board member, has been appointed to Salem City
Chisom will serve for the next six months, filling the vacancy left by councilwoman Lisa Garst, who announced her resignation during the Nov. 23 city council meeting.
Garst, who was first elected to council in 2008, has accepted a position as the director of Livable Roanoke Valley. Garst said she felt the need to resign in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
A Salem native, Chisom served as a school board member from 2000-08, and said he is honored to serve the city in a different capacity. He graduated from Salem High School, and from Roanoke College in 1984. He is currently employed as a senior vice president-investments financial advisor with Wells Fargo Advisors.
Chisom is involved in a number of civic organizations, such as the Salem and Roanoke YMCA and the Roanoke Valley Booster Club. He is also a member of the President’s Advisory Board at Roanoke College.
He said he was approached by a council member a little over two weeks ago, and after contemplating the position with his family, began to seriously consider the possibility.
“I have deep Salem roots and I care deeply about my hometown,” Chisom said in a City of Salem press release.
However, his new role wasn’t officially announced until the Monday, Dec. 14 council meeting, where members discussed the matter during a closed session before unanimously voting for his appointment. Council members considered a high number of candidates, but Chisom was on the short list.
“We believe that Mr. Chisom will serve the city as an outstanding councilman in the next six months, and there’s no doubt that his previous experience on the Salem School Board and ties to his hometown will be tremendous assets,” said Mayor Randy Foley in a City of Salem press release.
Chisom also believes his time as a school board member will be an asset.
“The schools make up a large part of the city’s budget,” Chisom said. “It will be interesting to see how things work from the other end of the spectrum.”
Garst’s term was set to expire on June 30. Chisom said he is happy to step up to the plate for the remainder of the term, but has no plans to vie for a seat. Councilmembers Bill Jones and Jane Johnson will also be up for reelection in the spring.
Garst was presented with a key to the city before the Monday night meeting. She said she looks forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Salem, only in a different capacity. Through her new role, she will strive to improve quality of life standards throughout the valley.
In other news:
• The City of Salem has been awarded $13,500 in a State Homeland Security grant. The funding will go towards the purchase of a mobile utility vehicle, which will be used to patrol the greenways and provide accident assistance, as well as assistance during large scale events, such as the Blue Ridge Music Festival.
• The school grants fund was amended at the December school board meeting. Amendments totaling $25,329 were approved. The changes are due to an increase in funding in the Adult Basic Education Grant.
• The Salem City Public Library has been listed as a benefactor to the estate of the late Nicholas G. Economy. Council approved a refunding bond, which states that the library will receive $10,000, as long as the city agrees to provide a partial refund should the estate come up short with funding in the future. Librarian Ann Tripp spoke at the meeting, and said should the library receive the funding, it will be used towards much needed furniture and carpeting updates.
The next Salem City Council meeting is slated for Monday, Jan. 11, where Chisom will be officially sworn in.