Whitehill seeking 2nd term on Salem Council

SALEM – Salem City Councilman-At-Large Brian Whitehill announced he’s filing petitions today to run for the Republican nomination for re-election to a second four-year term.

“In the past three years, I have had a lot to learn about the process of how things get done politically and operationally. My honest opinion is mixed on that subject and I feel that I can continue to bring sides together and forge improved communication if I continue in office,” he said in a press release.

Whitehill, 40, was born and raised in Salem, graduated from Salem High School in 1990 and purchased his childhood home on Tanglewood Drive as the place he wanted to raise his children. He and his wife, Shannon, have two children, 7-year-old Paige and 4-year-old David.

Whitehill earned a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management from Malone University, graduating with academic honors in 2010. He said he’s hoping to return for a master’s degree in the future.

He’s working as Materials Supervisor for Exterran Energy Inc., a company opening a new production facility in Youngstown which will build equipment used for natural gas production. Youngstown has a 2.75 percent city income tax in place, so he said he’s seeing the effect of a higher income tax rate on his paycheck and its impact on a family budget.

Whitehill said he decided to run again because there are still things he can do. He serves as chairman of the Traffic and Safety Committee and is a member of the Finance Committee and the Economic Development Committee.

“I genuinely care about the community I grew up in,” he said.

He said he’s looking forward to working with the new police Chief J.T. Panezott “to reduce crime and drugs, instituting crime-free zones which rental property owners can choose to opt-in to, as well as moving towards a complete zoning code review and increased building and design standards.”

“We simply must begin a process of longer term planning to how and where we build commercial, retail and residential projects,” he said in the press release.

When asked about the idea of a crime-free zone for rental properties, he explained that he’s been looking at legislation from another municipality for ideas. The idea of a crime-free zone means a landlord can opt to have the rental property tagged as a crime-free zone, so if a tenant is convicted of a crime, they can be automatically evicted.

He said it puts the responsibility on the tenant, noting that a lot of crime issues occur in areas where there are rental units. Landlords get problem tenants and have to go through a long eviction process.

He said it’s early in the process of looking at this idea but it’s an example of something that can be done to solve some of the issues facing the city.

With Whitehill running for re-election, he said voters have the opportunity to decide what kind of job he’s done so far. He said there’s a lot that people don’t see, with a lot of work done behind the scenes besides what happens in a council meeting. Each council member sits on three committees and even though one committee may not have met for a few months, he said that doesn’t mean there weren’t emails exchanged or phone calls or other meetings to attend.

It’s something he’s willing to do, to invest the time for his community.

He said he has a lot of respect for anybody, whether they’re a Republican, Democrat or Independent, who’s willing to go out there and gather the signatures to run and do the work. He sits in one of three Council-At-Large seats, with all three terms expiring Dec. 31, 2013.

People can contact Whitehill or make comments about issues facing the city on his political page on Facebook.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at mgreier@salemnews.net