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Merry named to Salem City Council in split vote

SALEM — Robert Merry is the new at-large member of Salem City Council, selected in a 3-2-1 vote for the seat vacated by former councilman Sal Salvino.

Council members deliberated for about 20 minutes in executive session during a special meeting Thursday before returning to open session for the vote. Besides Merry, who currently serves on the city Planning Commission, the candidates included former at-large councilman Brian Whitehill and businessman Raymond Cox, who owns the Salem Music Centre downtown with his wife Jan.

“I think everyone was really good. Tough decision there,” Council President Tom Baker said.

Merry, Cox and Whitehill answered questions during an interview session with council members Wednesday night. They had submitted resumes or letters outlining their backgrounds and interest in serving after Baker asked for people to step forward. Council had the job of choosing a successor to Salvino since he filed as an Independent when he first ran for office.

When Baker asked for nominations during the meeting, Councilman Jake Gano nominated Merry, which Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey seconded.

Councilman Steve Faber nominated Whitehill, which Councilman Ron Zellers seconded. Then Councilman Andrew Null nominated Cox, seconded by Councilman Dennis Plegge.

That meant all three candidates could receive votes.

In the end, Gano, Dickey and Plegge all voted for Merry, giving him the majority with three votes. Faber and Zellers both voted for Whitehill, giving him two votes, and Null voted for Cox, giving him one vote. If there had been a tie, Baker would have cast the deciding vote.

In an email announcing the outcome, Baker said all candidates were very qualified.

Merry will serve out the remainder of Salvino’s term, which expires Dec. 31. If he chooses to seek a new term for next year, Merry will need to file petitions by 4 p.m. May 3 to run as an Independent for the seat in the November election.

He’ll likely take over Salvino’s committee assignments as chairman of the Utilities Committee and

member of the Finance and Economic Development committees.

Merry has spent all of his adult life in Salem, moving to the city in 1967. According to his letter, he holds the distinction of being the first male graduate of the Hannah E. Mullins School of Practical Nursing and worked for Becker Ambulance which then became Gold Cross Ambulance and Medical Service.

He started the company’s home medical equipment program and later completed training as an EMT and paramedic, becoming the first licensed paramedic in Columbiana County. He served as manager of the Salem office and vice president of finance for the company.

Merry operated and was owner or part-owner of several companies, including a health care equipment firm, Salem Security Storage and U-Haul, and Merry Property Management which he still operates in Salem while helping the new owners of Salem Security Storage. He also helps manage Cambridge Square Condominium Association as treasurer.

He and his wife, Susan, have raised three children in Salem, with two of their children still residing here and raising their own families. He previously served on the city Board of Zoning Appeals.

Merry said Salem is his home and he wants to see it grow and prosper.

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