SALEM - Third Ward City Councilman Rick Drummond announced this week he plans to seek the Republican nomination for President of Council, a position currently held by Mickey Cope Weaver.
"I want to lead the process of establishing strategic direction for council. The president's duties are largely parliamentary - presiding over council proceedings, breaking tie votes when necessary, and ensuring that council business is performed in an orderly and efficient manner. The president establishes the council's agenda, makes committee assignments, and advances council's goals," he wrote in a press release.
"I have a wealth of experience facilitating successful, productive meetings and engaging people with diverse opinions in meaningful conversation to solve problems. I also believe that council must look beyond day-to-day concerns to develop a long-term vision and plan for Salem's future," he wrote.
The 57-year-old East State Street resident campaigned for the Third Ward council seat in 2011 and won after facing no opposition. He's served about 13 months of the four-year term.
When asked why he was running for President of Council, he said he heard a rumor that Weaver, a fellow Republican, was not running and contacted her, but she said she wasn't going to make a decision yet. He said he had been approached by people in the Republican Party and in the city about running.
"The position of President of Council is an important one," he said, adding the president can set the direction for the city.
When asked what he'll say to the people in the Third Ward who voted for him to represent them and the fact that he would go from having a vote on council action to having no vote except in the case of a tie, he said the president may have to break a tie on some important issues. He also said it's not like he wouldn't be talking to constituents - he would still be hearing what they have to say.
"I'm not abandoning anybody in the Third Ward. I would be taking on three other wards instead of just one and representing the whole city," he said.
When contacted about the announcement, Weaver said she's not running as a Republican, but she will be running as an Independent and she's looking at the positions available, such as Council-At-Large, President of Council or even a trustee seat in Perry Township.
"I have received support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents. In my experience as President of Council, I have felt I was approachable by all Parties. As an Independent, I can make decisions that are not Party-based, that are solely issue-based," she said.
Weaver said she's being encouraged by Independents, Democrats and Republicans to continue as a public official. Her final decision on what she's doing will be made prior to the primary election in May. The filing deadline for Independents is the day before the primary election. The filing deadline for Party candidates is Feb. 6.
"I feel the Independent vote is getting stronger all the time. More and more Independent candidates will step forward because they are viewed as non-partisan in their decision-making," she said.
In his press release, Drummond said he wanted to ensure the city is run "efficiently, effectively, and within budget, thereby keeping taxes as low as possible. We must increase city revenues through growth - in population, in alternative revenue sources, in numbers of businesses located here, and in corporate revenues vs. tax increases."
" As a manager of a major corporation, every day I make hard choices, setting priorities and allocating scarce resources to achieve results. These are the same kind of difficult decisions that council must make," he wrote.
Drummond also said he supports "a performance audit to determine if the city is getting the most for its money. The report will allow us to make informed decisions about what kind, how many, and in what way we deliver services."
Drummond works for Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in the IT or information technology area and is married to Ginger Grilli.
He said he wants to further develop professionalism and cooperation in the city, work closely with Mayor John Berlin and the executive branch of the city government, help make Salem welcoming to businesses and residents and continue addressing issues related to zoning, development, graffiti and crime. As President of Council, he said he can become more involved in the work of all council committees.
Since his council seat doesn't expire until Dec. 31, 2015, he can run safe, meaning even if he loses the race for president, he'll remain on council.
Drummond said he can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 330-277-5668.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at email@example.com