Four-term Salem City Councilman Bill Jones announced Monday night he will not run again. Jones spoke at the conclusion of the Jan. 8 Council meeting.
“It’s time for somebody else to step up,” Jones said. “This community is great because people are willing to serve.
He added that being on Salem City Council “has been an incredible honor and I am beyond grateful for the trust Salem’s citizens placed in me over the years. I am at peace with my decision and thankful for the many opportunities I have had during my time on Council.”
Jones has been a member who took great pride in voting for what he felt was best for the entire city and not just certain factions or areas.
“Whether you are in business or politics, you simply cannot let your personal agendas creep into the decision making when you are representing other people,” Jones said. “I’ve tried to always shoot straight and be honest with folks. You may not agree with me, but you always know where I stand.”
He graduated from Glenvar High School in 1977 and later studied business at Virginia Western Community College. For 21 years, he worked in the Human Resources department at Salem-based Yokohama Tire. In 1998, he went into private business when he took over the area’s FASTSIGNS franchise.
His strong business background and unlimited connections throughout the region made him a valuable member not only of Salem City Council, but the city’s Audit-Finance Committee, the Western Virginia Regional Jail Commission, and the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission.
“During my extended time on Council, I have learned that for Salem to be successful it has to be willing to work with its neighbors for the good of the entire region,” he said. “We all have unique features to offer and by working together, we have experienced tremendous success in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.”
Much of Jones’ time as a councilman has been defined by the Great Recession, which began shortly after he was elected, and the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to have impacts on day-to-day life for some.
“We had to modify services, adjust employee pay and also maintain a high level of customer expectations with a shrinking workforce,” he said. “I would be lying if I said any of that was easy. Still, I feel incredibly blessed to be part of all that was accomplished during these difficult times.”
Jones was part of the council teams that approved funding for the Salem School Division to build its first new school from the ground up in South Salem Elementary. He also voted to provide funding to revitalize and drastically improve the current high school and field house. The strategic timing of both projects allowed the city to save its taxpayers millions of dollars.
He has also been instrumental in ongoing downtown improvements, the Roanoke River Greenway expansion, Moyer Complex revitalization, and establishment of the Salem Rotary Dog Park. The city’s bond rating also improved to AA+ with the S&P Global Rating while he was on Council. That rating enhancement gave Salem the ability to borrow money at a lower interest rate.
“I have been a businessperson my entire adult life, but in order to get things done you have to be a people person,” he said. “Our employees in Salem have worked very hard to make these projects a reality for our citizens and visitors.”
For decades, he has been one of Salem’s biggest sports fans and supporters. He has served as a coach and referee at various levels for more than 30 years and he is a member of the Salem Sports Foundation. He continues to work as the official scorekeeper for area high school basketball and football games as well as NCAA events.
“All of my sports experiences got me used to being yelled at by the public,” he said jokingly. “But anyone who knows me will tell you that I will miss helping people and the problem-solving part of being a city council member.”
Jones met his wife Mary Ann while the two were high school sweethearts at Glenvar. They have two sons. Andy is a Clemson graduate, who is an administrator of a Blacksburg nursing home. He and his wife Jessica have three children. Bill Jones’ other son, Adam, is a West Virginia University graduate who is a mortgage lender in Roanoke. He and his wife Katie have a set of young twins.
“It’s time to spend more time with my family, especially the grandkids, and less time on the phone and in meetings,” Jones said. “I could not have served this long without the support of my wife and kids. They have sacrificed a great deal the last 16 years.”
In other matters at the Jan. 8 Salem City Council meeting, Council:
- Approved, on first reading, rezoning for property in St. John Place from Highway District to Heavy Manufacturing;
- Approved, on first reading, rezoning on Apperson Drive from Business Commerce to Highway Business District. Community Development Director Chuck VanAllman explained the rezoning would allow owners to market the strip mall for more uses. He pointed out the property is behind Wendy’s at the Salem City-Roanoke City line;
- Approved slightly higher electric rates, in keeping with increased costs for power purchased from American Electric Power. Those go into effect in February;
- Set an Erosion and Sediment Control bond of $386,295 for Quik Lube Oil Change at 830 W. Main St., the site of the former Fast Freddy’s restaurant and Sonic drive in;
- Set and Erosion and Sediment Control bond of $24,963 for St. John Road Community Development Plan.
Monday was the first day on the job for new Salem City Manager Chris Dorsey, who moved to Salem from Tennessee. He takes over the position held by Jay Taliaferro, who retired Nov. 1.