3 seeking open Salem council seat

SALEM — Three residents submitted resumes for the open At Large Salem City Council seat.

On Thursday night, city council will select one of them to fill the unexpired term vacated by former councilman Sal Salvino, who resigned last month.

The term expires Dec. 31.

The candidates include former At Large city councilman Brian Whitehill, current city Planning Commission member Robert Merry and businessman Raymond Cox, who owns the Salem Music Centre with his wife Jan in downtown Salem.

Council President Tom Baker on Monday announced plans for city council to interview the candidates via Zoom at 6 p.m. Wednesday. At 6 p.m. Thursday, council members will meet again to discuss the candidates, likely in executive session, then take a vote in open session. The successful candidate will likely attend the next council meeting, which is 7 p.m. April 20.

To join the special meeting for the interviews, via Zoom, use Zoom Meeting ID: 964 6341 1385 and Passcode: 566451.

To join the special meeting when council will select the new councilman, via Zoom, use Zoom Meeting ID: 947 2696 1122 and Passcode: 545418.

The job of filling the open spot fell to city council since Salvino ran for his first term as an Independent candidate. He resigned after accepting a full-time position with the city as the new Director of Housing/Housing Inspector.

Council had announced a deadline of this past Friday for submitting resumes and letters of interest for the At Large seat.

Here’s a little bit of background on each of the candidates:

— Raymond Cox resides on Highland Avenue with his wife Jan, a Salem native, in a century home they purchased five years ago to restore as their permanent home, coming from Louisiana. They opened Salem Music Centre in 2020 at the corner of Lundy and State, paying homage to the Bennett family who operated the original Salem Music Centre for many years, also in downtown.

He currently serves as district manager for G4S Secure Solutions (USA) Inc., Ohio and Pennsylvania, a company which offers security services to local, regional, strategic and global accounts. Most of his career has focused on security, starting out as a police officer and deputy Marshall.

Cox pointed to his professional experience in directing operations, strategic planning, policy development, attention to detail, and leadership skills as being possible assets to city council. He also talked about how he and Jan continue working to bring live performances and music education into Salem.

— Robert Merry and his wife Susan raised three children in Salem and now two of their children are raising their own children here. A resident on North Lincoln Avenue, he’s lived here all of his adult life, graduated from the Hannah E. Mullins School of Practical Nursing, worked as a licensed paramedic and served as manager of the Salem Gold Cross Ambulance office and Vice President of finance for the corporation.

He has owned or was part-owner of several companies, including Salem Security Storage and U-Haul. He still operates Merry Property Management and helps manage Cambridge Square Condominium Association as treasurer.

He currently serves on the Salem Planning Commission and formerly served on the Salem Board of Zoning Appeals. Merry said the city is his home, he owns properties here and most of his family is here, so he has many reasons for wanting to see the city grow and prosper.

— Brian Whitehill, born and raised in Salem, resides in his boyhood home on Tanglewood Drive with his wife Shannon and their children Paige and David. He served for eight years as an At Large Salem City Councilman, serving on the Finance Committee, along with Traffic and Safety and Economic Development. He was involved in passing legislation for tax abatements on property improvements, a clandestine drug lab policy for holding owners accountable for cleanups, unoccupied property restrictions, property maintenance code, and establishment of two K-9 units in the police department.

Whitehill currently works as copper/rebuilds process manager for Butech-Bliss in Salem and previously served as Vice President and general manager of Custom Cut Aluminum, a start-up business with his father. He’s on the board of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce and active in local bands and community theater productions, along with playing drums in the praise band at Greenford Christian Church.

He said his previous experience would allow him to hit the ground running and provide additional experienced leadership to council, with a commitment to the citizens of Salem and pledge to work with both Democrats and Republicans as a true Independent.



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