By Chamberlain Zulauf, Student Reporter
The general election for Virginia’s House of Representatives is 82 days away as is hometown-Salem’s City Council vote, in which two seats are open and defended by incumbents. Four candidates are running to be elected and I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with each, myself having the opportunity to introduce them to readers, starting with…
Councilman Randy Foley, who was first elected to Salem City Council in 2006 and served as mayor from ’08 to ’20. “I’m focused on improving the quality of life in Salem,” he said of his run. “There’s a lot of facets to that from the condition of our schools to the appearance of our city. The many levels involved with the quality of life in Salem is what I hope to continue working on in returning to my position,” said Foley.
Along with the numerous Boards and Committees Foley serves on he is also director of sales operations at the Salem-based software/services company Beacon HCI.
“It’s exciting to work on a start-up. I have a lot of positive qualities in my leadership— which I learned as an Air Force Officer— which I’m able to offer. We’ve got to make a place where businesses want to be built and can stay tethered to. Of course, being the head of a software company, I think Salem could benefit from the addition of business in STEM related fields. We have a huge medical industry in the valley and those are high paying jobs. A lot of the same aspects for the quality of life are the same as the steps taken to attract economy to Salem,” concluded Foley.
Although a first-time candidate, Anne-Marie Green has a lifetime of experience in local government. In her career she learned the value in being connected to residents. Originally, Green carried out this value at the city government level in Oldtown, Alexandria before becoming the public information officer in Salem.
“So, I know a lot about communication and how to reach out to citizens, letting them know what’s going on; I do believe the city of Salem could be more transparent with their proceedings and better at being accessible,” Green said.
Green has also served as the services director and the director of human resources for Roanoke County. She is currently the head of the Roanoke nonprofit Council of Community Services.
Going door to door getting signatures for her campaign petition, Green heard firsthand Salem residents’ common and relatable problems.
“I met a lot of people, and some were saying they had stormwater trouble, for example, or even that they’ve felt unheard by our local government… I needed 120 signatures and ended up getting more than 250. It was a good way to hear from people about their concerns and what they think the city could do better,” said Green.
Believing Salem to be in an economic rut, Green would like to see work towards attracting more businesses and feels economic development needs to be planned.
Next, the other first-time candidate in November’s election, Salemite Hunter Holliday, has lasting love and deep connections to his hometown. As a small business owner himself Holliday believes he can bring his outside perspective of communications, finance and public affairs to City Council. “I will always do what’s best for the Citizens of Salem,” he said. “During my 36 years in the Army, I lived by these core values: Loyalty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage and to always lead from the front,” said Holliday.
Holliday is the only candidate running under a national political party identity, an unusual occurrence for Salem’s local elections. “I think the days of straddling the fence are over. I am running as a Republican because I believe in transparency for the Citizens of Salem,” said Holliday, who believes that voters identifying with elected officers is important for a city with an appointed school board and mayor.
There is a checklist of goals Holliday seeks opportunities to work on as a councilman. The safety of Salem is a top priority on his platform, as is bringing back industry and manufacturing to Salem. Continuing the revitalization of Downtown Salem as well as making Salem attractive as a host city for new business are additional planks of Holliday’s platform. One intriguing asset Holliday thinks Salem could benefit from is a professional soccer team, an idea inspired by his son.
Finally, Councilman John Saunders, who was elected to City Council in 2018, is also Salem native as well as a Roanoke College alumnus. Seeking reelection, Saunders hopes to continue spreading the word about his hometown to those outside of it. Being an avid sports fan his whole life it was a blessing for Saunders when at age 23 he was made the assistant director of the Salem Civic Center, “I owe my entire existence to that first job at the civic center… I grew up playing hockey—everything. Nowadays my passion for athletics is more about moving tickets,” quipped Saunders.
Saunders believes that, given the constant success of the Civic Center among other things, Salem is designed in a business-oriented way. “If something doesn’t make sense then don’t do it, and if it does then do it right!” said Saunders. “I spent 33 years [at the Civic Center]; if you came to the building, you were likely to have seen me.”
In his experience at the Civic Center, Saunders and his peers realized the positive economic impact hosting events can have on a city. A motto his Civic Center crew believed in was that failure is not an option, “…like Houston. The show will go on either way so doing it right is the only way… Building up infrastructure from schools to stadiums would be opportunistic for both locals and visitors.”
Saunders is very proud of the facilities Salem has to offer to visitors and their residual benefits to Salem residents.