Garst resigns from council

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Councilwoman to serve as director of Livable Roanoke Valley

Lisa Garst has resigned from Salem City Council, effective Dec. 15. Photo courtesy City of Salem.
Lisa Garst has resigned from Salem City Council, effective Dec. 15. Photo courtesy City of Salem.
During an emotionally charged Salem City Council meeting, Lisa Garst announced that she will be resigning from her position as councilwoman, effective Dec. 15.

Garst, who was first elected to council in 2008, has accepted a position as the director of Livable Roanoke Valley. She submitted her letter of resignation during a closed session portion of the regularly scheduled Nov. 23 council meeting.

Garst said she made the decision to step down in order to avoid any possible conflicts of interest. However, she said she is confident in her ability to continue to serve the Salem community.

Through her new role, Garst said she will be concentrating on economic development, workforce development, natural assets and health standards to improve the quality of life throughout the valley.

“I am passionate about working with our neighbors to promote quality of life issues that benefit us all,” Garst said in a City of Salem press release. “It’s exciting to think about working with people in Virginia’s Blue Ridge and the Alleghany Highlands to make these areas strong, vibrant and prosperous communities that our children will be proud to call home.”

Garst is a Covington native and a Mary Baldwin College graduate. Her husband, Reid, was in attendance at the meeting, and the two own and operate Sterling-ES, a Salem-based engineering sales firm. They have a daughter, Ashby, who attends Salem High School. Garst made sure to thank her friends and family, including her dogs Mango and Cookie, for their support over the years.

“Being on Salem City Council has been a tremendous honor and I am grateful for the trust Salem’s citizens have shown in me,” Garst said in her statement. “I would never make this move if I didn’t know I could continue serving the citizens of Salem, this time just in a different capacity.”

During her two terms as councilwoman, Garst has been instrumental in promoting greenway construction and establishing the Salem Rotary Dog Park. Most recently, Garst played a key role in forming the Salem Fresh Ideas Garden, a community garden ran by volunteers, which donates all produce to the local food pantry. She received the DePaul Woman of Achievement in Government Award in 2011.

“It has really been an honor to serve for the past seven and a half years,” Garst concluded at the meeting. “I’d also like to express my gratitude to my fellow councilmembers for your professionalism, your collaboration, and your friendship.”

Council members took a moment to express their gratitude and praise of Garst, as well.

“Being the only woman on council, when you announced that you were going to run, I was absolutely thrilled,” said city councilwoman Jane Johnson. “I already knew you. I already knew how smart you were. I’m especially happy that you see things in a regional way, like I do.”

Garst’s term was officially set to expire in the summer of 2016. Council will appoint an individual to serve for the remainder of her term. The next Salem City Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 14, which will mark Garst’s final meeting.

“Lisa, thank you for your friendship and your professionalism,” said Salem City Mayor Randy Foley. “You may no longer have a vote after Dec. 15, but you will always have a voice.”