New council boss putting city, residents first

Tom Baker

SALEM–New Salem City Council President Tom Baker described himself as very fair and very open-minded, but with the city’s best interest and taking care of the needs of its citizens as the top priorities.

That’s what people can expect when he opens his first council meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday — someone born and raised in Salem, the third generation working at the family business in Salem, who wants to raise a family here and help grow the city and make it thrive.

“I’ll do the best I can,” he said during a recent interview.

The 26-year-old 2010 graduate of Salem High School attended Youngstown State University for a semester then dove into the family business really hard. His grandfather Fred bought an existing business in 1975 and renamed it and rebranded it Salem Welding & Supply Co., running it with his son, Fred Jr., Tom’s father. Tom started working there at age 14 and at age 16, he started taking vocational classes, learning about blueprint reading and drawings and CNC controls for different machines. That’s when he said he “started falling in love with the industry.”

“I really enjoyed the social aspect of it, building up friendships and relationships,” he said about quoting jobs and working with customers to sell the jobs.

He’s now vice president of the company which expanded two years ago, spreading from a shop on one side of Prospect Street to a second shop across the street. They give back to the community, helping churches and other organizations with time capsules and helping the city by patching up snow plows and working on other equipment.

His fiancee, Macy McKinney, also graduated from Salem High School and is majoring in business/human resources at Kent State University Salem campus. She’s also working at the business, handling financial matters.

His mother is Norma and he has two older sisters, Kim and Danielle, and a niece, Annie.

Baker had never run for public office before and wasn’t involved in politics but a year ago when former councilman Dave Nestic announced he was leaving and his seat was opening up, he heard about the opportunity, but he wasn’t in the right ward. The seat was in the First Ward and he lived in the Fourth Ward.

“That’s what kind of got the gears turning,” he said.

A couple months later, he heard that the council presidency was opening up.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to get my feet wet,” he said.

Baker wanted to contribute to his hometown and get involved so he talked to Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman David Johnson, who graduated with his parents, and he pointed him in the right direction. He ended up running unopposed to win the seat.

“There’s not a training program or training procedure,” he said about the job.

He’s been coming to meetings and watching video of past meetings besides talking with outgoing Council President K. Bret Apple, who will remain at the meetings as the new city treasurer. Apple gave him a binder of information and he met with Mayor John Berlin, saying everyone’s been extremely helpful.

As the day approaches, he’s gone from feeling exited to being nervous back to being excited and confidant. Council president runs the council meeting and votes only in the event of a tie. He’s also responsible for the council committee assignments, which he’s been working on. Some committees will obviously change with the departures of Councilmen Brian Whitehill and Clyde Brown. Brown announced he was resigning effective at midnight tonight, so his spot will be open until the Salem Area Democrats choose a successor to fill the unexpired term.

Baker said he sees the operation of the city like a business, with a budget that needs followed and people with all different backgrounds making up the government.

“We’re all teammates here, completely put away the donkey and the elephant, and bring dynamic thinking,” he said.

As times change, he said people need to continue thinking and changing how to do things. He said they need to bring different ideas, discuss them and evaluate them for the community. He said he likes to form his own opinion and get other people’s opinions and input.

“I’m willing to work with people and hear people out,” he said.

So what’s he do for fun? Baker said he likes to golf and he’s interested in cars when he’s not working. He and Macy are also planning their wedding for 2018.

“I have a lot of ties in Salem and don’t want to go anywhere (else),” he said.