Jane Johnson made history Monday when she was sworn in as the first woman to be Salem’s vice mayor.
Johnson was elected unanimously by fellow Salem City Council members, including Randy Foley and newest member John Saunders who were sworn in before a packed room of friends, family and city employees. Voters elected the two in the May 2 city council election.
Councilman Bill Jones, who served as vice mayor for the past four years through June 30, nominated Johnson only minutes after he had made the surprise announcement that he was withdrawing his name from any leadership position because of a recently diagnosed health condition.
After the 8 a.m. council reorganization meeting, Johnson said in her new role, “I want to continue to build consensus and a more united council.” She added that being the first woman to be vice mayor “Is a huge honor.”
Johnson continued, “I feel the continuity is a good thing for Salem. We have been on a trajectory of emphasizing business and making Salem a better place.”
Johnson and her sons own R.M. Johnson & Sons Jewelers on College Avenue in Salem. She has served on council since 2004.
Saunders recently retired from the City of Salem where he was the director and previously long-time assistant director of Civic Facilities that include the Salem Civic Center and Salem Stadium.
Foley and Saunders were sworn in by Salem Clerk of Court Chance Crawford, who also administered the oaths for vice mayor and mayor, respectively, to Johnson and Foley. It is Foley’s sixth consecutive term as mayor. Johnson has served on council since voters elected her in 2004.
She and other council members said they did not know until that morning that Jones did not plan to accept another term as vice mayor.
At the official council reorganization, Jones said he intends “to continue on council for now.” He declined to specify what his health condition is, saying only that he received the diagnosis two weeks ago. “People who know me know it is hard for me to step back,” he said. He added, “Almost dying 31 years ago (from Crone’s disease) it makes me want to take care of myself. I appreciate people wanting me to be in the leadership role; it’s time I stepped back. I have a wife, sons and grandchildren to consider.”