4 vie for 3 Salem at-large council seats
SALEM – One incumbent councilman, one appointed councilman and two first-time candidates will vie for three Salem City Council-At-Large seats on Tuesday’s ballot.
Councilmen Brian Whitehill and Jeff Cushman both filed as Republicans asking voters to keep them in place while local businessmen Roy Paparodis and Dan Bailey filed as Independents asking for a chance to serve.
The job they’re all seeking pays $4,553 per year with no health care benefits. Council members receive a paycheck once a month, attend full council meetings twice a month and serve on two committees each, along with the Committee of the Whole, which includes all seven council members.
All four candidates were contacted for one-on-one interviews and all responded except for Bailey. Messages were left at his business Game On and on his cell phone, asking him to call to set up a time for an interview, but he did not respond.
Whitehill, 41, is seeking his second four-year term after winning election to council in the fall of 2009. He recently founded his own independent consulting firm for business and economic development and said he likes looking at operations and how they can be done better.
He said he’s running again because he still has concerns regarding where Salem is headed as a community and wants to serve the citizens. He still lives in the house where he grew up and is raising his children in that house.
“If we’re not all willing to stop and say ‘I’ll serve’, then who will?” he said.
Cushman, 51, is seeking his first four-year term after being appointed two years ago to finish out the unexpired term vacated by current Mayor John Berlin. He previously was elected to the Salem Board of Education in 2009, resigning in December 2011 to join council. He owns Barclay Machine Inc. on South Broadway Avenue.
With two years under his belt and his experience as a business owner and a lifelong citizen, he said he understands the workings of city government now and feels he can be of service to the city and the citizens of Salem.
“I’m not a politician kind of guy. I’m a business owner and just want to give back to my community,” he said.
Paparodis, 56, has never run for public office before. He said he was asked to run by Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey and then by David Johnson, who serves as Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman.
The general manager of the Guilford Lake Grille and former owner of Timberlanes, Paparodis said he decided to run because Salem’s at a turning point and there are some opportunities around the corner where he could be useful.
“I think with my experiences in my personal and business life, I can offer something to the city,” he said.
For Paparodis, the issues of the city include being ready for the oil and gas industry, addressing drugs and crimes and bringing more business into the community.
“Hopefully the business at hand is going to be to accommodate the oil and gas business movement. Hopefully our community is part of that,” he said.
The city is in a transition and a lot of the problems are drug-related, he said, adding the city needs to be supportive of the people who enforce the laws against crime and drugs.
As a longtime businessman, he focused a lot on what’s needed to increase business, saying the city has to be business-friendly.
“I think we need to copy what other cities and counties are doing to attract business,” he said.
That may mean giving tax breaks or tax abatements to get new businesses to come to Salem, keeping in mind the tax revenue the city may gain from the new employees, he explained.
“By giving tax breaks to new businesses willing to come into the community, it increases the general payroll of the whole community,” he said.
Paparodis has spent his life working in the hospitality industry and said hospitality is what’s necessary to convince a business to choose Salem. He said “we have to get personally involved with the people willing to bring business here. We need to communicate with them and meet with them on a personal basis.
Cushman identified drugs and crime as the number one issue for the city, but also said a plan needs to be in place for growth and the city needs to continue working within its limited means.
“I think drugs and crime in this town are out of control and probably have been for a long time. We need to do everything in our power to get drugs and crime off our streets, out of our parks and schools and away from our children,” he said.
The way to do that is through support of the people who do the law enforcement and drug enforcement in every way possible. He said the citizens also need to be vigilant and support community programs like Operation Street Smart when they become available.
“We have to get involved,” he said.
He also suggested looking into more surveillance equipment for the parks and streets.
“This shale business is still in its infancy. There’s going to be more jobs and people coming to town. To what ability we have to guide and direct the growth of Salem, we should,” he said.
Cushman said he’s against raising taxes. The city has limited income tax revenue and they need to continue to find ways to make the most of the resources available. He chairs the Utilities Committee and is a member of the Parks Committee.
Whitehill said the city’s still facing financial hurdles, infrastructure is always a concern and crime and drugs are a problem, but for him, “the biggest issue is the character of the town.”
“I just think it’s time that we can expect more from residents,” he said.
He explained that “there are programs that are designed to help communities insist on a higher level of behavior and responsibility. Some relate to rental properties, some not.”
On the city’s Planning Committee working on a five-year planning proposal, he heads up housing and zoning and noted that zoning issues can have a detrimental effect on the city as a whole and ties into economic development and home ownership.
He complimented Salem Police Chief J.T. Panezott and said he’s excited about what he brings to the city. As chairman of the Traffic and Safety Committee, he wants to work closely with the police. With the crime situation and the drugs, he said there’s an impression that it’s getting worse, but he thinks all the drug busts should be seen as positive. They could serve as a deterrent.
Whitehill said there’s always room for improvement in different areas, including infrastructure such as streets and utilities. As a member of the Finance Committee, he said they’ll have to watch closely as the state reduces certain funds, such as the Local Government Fund. They go through the budget line by line and in previous years encouraged the administration to look for alternatives to save money on health insurance premiums.
He said he gets concerned sometimes with the lack of attendance at council meetings by residents and finds frustrating some of the comments made by people without understanding what’s happening.
Whitehill said he’s responsive and gets back to people as quickly as possible. He tries to engage and solicit input from residents on issues, noting that he represents the whole town. As an incumbent, he said the people know what they’re getting. He has a track record and asked that voters make their decision based on who he is and what they’ve seen.
“I’m an operations guy. When I see operational issues, I want to dig in and see what I can do to fix them,” he said.
Cushman said he’s proud to say he’s a Christian. He’s a conservative Republican who believes in smaller government and lower taxes. He said he has no agenda and tries to bring common sense to his service on council. He listens to what people have to say and believes in bringing people together to discuss ideas while searching for a solution to a problem or challenge.
“I try to draw upon my experience of being a lifelong resident of Salem and make decisions that are for the betterment of the community,” he said.
Paparodis said he grew up in Salem, raised his family in Salem and operated a business in Salem. He said he knows a lot about the community and “who we are and who we were.” He wants to be a team player and be part of the solutions, doing what’s right and helping the citizens.
“I plan on being very engaged and very personal. I think if we have a working relationship, we’ll find the solutions,” he said.