Salem voters elected two new faces to Council in Tuesday’s election, and returned the longest-serving incumbent.
Renee Turk was the apparent largest vote getter with 24.4 percent of votes cast, followed by first-time candidate Jim Wallace with 20 percent, and incumbent Bill Jones with 19.6 percent.
Challenger Hunter Holliday received 18.6 percent, and incumbent James Martin 16.6 percent. Vice Mayor Jane Johnson did not seek re-election.
Top vote getters gave phone interviews Tuesday night after the Virginia Department of Elections posted voting totals.
Holliday declined to comment, and Martin did not return calls before press time.
Turk was happy about winning this time, which was her second run. “It’s exciting to know that many people in Salem voted for me for Salem City Council. I appreciate the vote of confidence so much. I will work hard to make sure I deserve this support. I’ll do my homework,” she promised.
She is a former business education teacher at Salem High School who started the data processing program, and the Cooperative Office Education program. “I placed kids in vocational jobs in Salem and Roanoke County,” she explained. “It was exciting to see some of my students who came out to support me today.”
Wallace could not be reached Tuesday night because he was out collecting all of his campaign signs, his son said.
Jones, who has been on Council for 12 years, attributed his win to being up front with people. “It may not be what they want to hear, but I always tell them the truth,” he said.
Jones has served 12 years on Council. He currently is a sales rep with Hart Motors and the Real Estate Group. Previously he was in human resources for Yokahama, then owned Fastsigns.
In written statements before the election, he said Council service has given him the insight on how to manage needs vs wants, particularly the experiences of dealing with a weak economy in 2008-16.
Martin has served four years on Council. He is a sales executive with an industrial software company that serves heavy manufacturing companies in North America and Europe.
Before the election, he said he considers rising costs of city services and a narrowing scope and capability of the existing economic development ecosystem are some of the biggest challenges facing Salem today.
Turk pointed out she was the only woman running in Salem where 53 percent of the citizens are women, and had a critical perspective from relevant knowledge and business education.
“I attribute my win to the many, many people who were contributing via social media,” she explained. When the virus became so evident that candidates should not be out campaigning in person, she said asked people to help by getting out the word, and voting absentee.
She said her challenge as a Councilmember was to “Figure out the best way to help Salem’s businesses recover economically, to make sure the citizens are OK with what they have to pay in taxes. We have to be very aware of what we have to do to help our local businesses. It is going to be a challenge, a balancing act. We have to continue to listen to people.”
Holliday, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who has civil experience in marketing and events management, said he was committed to creating a favorite tax climate to help existing businesses, and to give incentives to ones to come to Salem. He ran as a Republican, and was the only candidate with party backing.
Wallace is a sales engineer and branch manager of Tencarva Machinery in Salem. He said schools, economic development and economic development and government are the three areas the city needs to strengthen the most.
He wanted the parking situation to be addressed, and the city to conduct exit interviews with businesses that have left in order to understand why they did.
Results from all voting precincts did not post until almost 9:30 p.m. That was a longer delay than usual, the Salem Registrar’s Office said, because of the need to count a large number of absentee votes.
Voters across the state had been encouraged to vote absentee in order to reduce the number of people at polls, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All 10 of Salem’s in-person polling places were located at the Salem Civic Center this year.
Results are considered unofficial until after they are filed in the Salem Circuit Court Clerk’s office on May 20, after press time.