Salem City Council candidates meet in Kiwanis forum

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 7:35 PM EDT
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SALEM, Va. (WDBJ) - In Salem, four candidates are vying for two seats on City Council.

Tuesday afternoon, they came together for their first joint appearance of the campaign.

The field includes two incumbents, Randy Foley and John Saunders.

“We have some big decisions that are coming up,” Foley told the audience in his opening statement.

“I’m running for re-election because I’m not done yet,” Saunders said.

The two challengers are Anne Marie Green and Hunter Holliday.

“Local government is my passion,” Green said to the crowd.

“I can bring a much needed outside perspective to Salem City Council,” Holliday said. .

The candidates participated in a public forum organized by the Kiwanis Club of Salem.

The questions came from the audience, with the candidates staking out similar territory on some hot-button issues.

For example, all four said they opposed outright banning of books, but believe students should only have access to age-appropriate materials in school.

More than one question dealt with economic development, and what to do about vacant facilities like the old GE plant.

Holliday said Salem has been stagnant for years, and he questioned whether the current members of council have done enough to recruit new business and industry.

“I don’t believe it’s dead. I don’t believe manufacturing is dead in Salem,” Holliday said.

Green said the city needs to be creative and look for the types of businesses that fit with the city.

“With the Allstate building in Roanoke County, it was divided up into several businesses and that makes sense,” Green said.

Saunders said council must give the city’s new Economic Development Director the support that he needs.

“I know the EDA (Economic Development Authority) works very hard in this city to try to provide funds to help people for the new, but it’s also important to do the retention of our businesses,” Saunders said.

Foley cited recent development downtown as examples of the city’s progress.

“More needs to be done, but we did it with the West Salem Body Shop,” Foley said. “Faisal Khan did it with the Ridenhour Music. It’s happening.”

Early voting begins Friday.