SALEM - The city school board hired a new treasurer Monday morning, with Liberty Local Schools Treasurer James Wilson slated to begin his duties in Salem effective Dec. 1.
"He came very highly recommended," school board President Brad Myers said.
A former banker, Wilson has been serving as treasurer at Liberty Local Schools just north of Youngstown since May 2011 and previously served as the assistant treasurer in the district from January 2010 to May 2011.
"It was a hard choice to decide to finally leave Liberty," he said when contacted by phone.
The Liberty district is in fiscal emergency right now, with a fiscal oversight committee in place. When Wilson inherited the district's books after his predecessor resigned, he said they were in disarray and the district did not have the good accountability the public wants. He said he learned what to do and what not to do, with help from the superintendent and from state auditors. He said they got Liberty back on track as far as accounting goes.
Wilson, 41, said he's looking forward to the opportunity to serve Salem. He said he was impressed by the school board and Superintendent Tom Bratten in how astute they were regarding district finances, commenting it's not too often the case that all five board members and the superintendent are that familiar with the numbers.
"That's a breath of fresh air. Salem has something to be proud of in my opinion," he said.
"I really wanted to join a community that was heading in the right direction," he said, pointing out the district has a lot of community and alumni support.
Wilson will take the books from interim Treasurer Michael Bichsel, who joined the district in August on a temporary basis after the treasurer the board had hired earlier in the summer to start Aug. 1 resigned before beginning her duties. Dawn Meeks had been hired to replace then outgoing treasurer Jill Rowe, who left for a new job with the Crestwood Local Schools in Mantua.
Bichsel had just retired from the Canton Schools when he was contacted about serving as the Salem interim treasurer until a new treasurer could be hired. Myers said the board was told it would be a challenge to find a new treasurer after the school year had started. Treasurer contracts usually begin Aug. 1.
Wilson had previously applied for Rowe's position and had been in the final round, but wasn't interviewed at the time due to the amount of experience touted by the handful of candidates who were interviewed.
This time around, Myers said they looked into what Wilson did at Liberty in helping the district and thought he was a solid guy. He called him "a find" and said he spoke to the Liberty school board president who spoke of him highly.
His contract will expire on July 31, 2014, with a starting yearly salary of $68,035.
Wilson said anyone with questions about the Salem school district finances will be welcome to come to his office. He said they'll be good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars, accountable for every penny.
"I watch money like it's my own," he said. "I want them to have full faith and trust in me."
Wilson earned both his school treasurer license and his business manager license from the state of Ohio in July 2010 and a state of Ohio insurance license in August 1998. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Youngstown State University in March 1995 and a master's degree in business education in May 2001, with some post graduate coursework completed at Ashland University.
He previously worked in banking, last working as Key Center Manager/Banking Officer at Key Bank in Youngstown. He was an assistant vice president and financial center manager with Sky Bank and a branch manager with Dollar Bank. He also served as a financial assistant with the city of Youngstown.
Wilson resides in New Middletown with his wife, Jamie, and their 15-month-old daughter, Emma.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org