Councilmembers split on re-electing Foley mayor

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Mayor Randy Foley began his sixth straight term as Salem mayor on Monday, but his election wasn’t unanimous.

Fellow Councilmen John Saunders and James Martin voted “nay.”

Saunders, who ran for council on an opposition platform to current city decisions and policies, explained after his first meeting that “Randy knew how I was going to vote before this point. It was nothing personal and never will be. I want to see the city change its direction.”

Councilman Martin sent a statement to the Salem Times-Register saying he voted no to Foley for mayor because of a “Lack of consistent communication among council and at times from the mayor and city manager to council and city staff.” He added he believes “economic development needs to be more than 1-2 single points of contact (mayor and/or city manager) with economic development partners.”

Martin pointed out, “More votes were cast for a new council member wanting change than the sitting mayor…Not seeing/believing this fact is somewhat arrogant considering the election process be the guiding force in what government does or doesn’t do. We need to listen to what ‘our customers’ [citizens] are asking for and take action to do our best in delivering consistent, dedicated public service built on trust and respect for our employees and citizens.”

Saunders received the largest number of votes in the May election out of the six candidates running for two at-large seats. He opposed the way Salem had operated recently, he said, including not taking care of its employees.

In his candidate’s announcement he said he was running to improve employee morale and civic facilities. He explained he thought “things need to change in Salem and I want to be part of it.”

In contrast to most Salem City Council meetings, Monday morning’s reorganizational meeting had a full audience of friends, family and city employees. Many of them were Saunders’ supporters. Among the family were Mayor Foley’s wife, Nicole, and Saunders’ daughter, 18-year-old Heather Saunders, who gave her dad a big hug to congratulate him.

Council member Jane Johnson was unanimously elected vice mayor by fellow councilmembers at the July 2 council reorganizational meeting. She is the first woman to hold that position in the City of Salem’s history. Johnson has been on council since 2004.

Councilman Bill Jones, who served as vice mayor for several terms and through June 30, withdrew his name from consideration at the meeting, citing a newly diagnosed health condition. He declined to say what that condition is.

Council did vote unanimously to cancel its regular meeting on July 9, because of a lack of items on the agenda.