Salem voters on Election Day Tuesday will shape a large portion of the city's future.
A common denominator of each and every candidate including those seeking the mayor's seat is what we perceive to be earnest intentions to well serve the city and its citizens. That should be expected and is commendable because serving in office can be a thankless task. We praise all those who serve and those who want to serve. We have very good people in office. We have good people running for office in Salem. Win or lose on Tuesday, residents should appreciate all of the candidates. Each has ideas of doing what is best for the city. Respect that and hopefully with the end of the election will come a dissipation of the sheer toxicity that has perculated and boiled over between some camps and supporters. Enough is enough with all of the bad and mean-spirited stuff. Think common good of the city and its people.
Several concerns are foremost on each mayoral candidate's priorities list: economic revitalization, infrastructure and crime. That is how it should be - the current state of the city warrants immediate and full attention to each of those. Solutions can be nebulous and take time. Answers aren't always clear-cut and easily achieved.
The mayor's race is a three-candidate contest. Incumbent Jerry Wolford is seeking a second term, this time as an Independent after winning this first term in 2008 as a Republican. He is being challenged by Republican John Berlin, a current councilman at large, and Democrat Scott Cranmer, a former police officer whose father Dean was mayor. Both are viable challengers.
Wolford has the political track record. Beside his term as mayor, he served 13 years as a Perry Township Trustee and six years as a city council member. A lifelong resident, he has owned and operated his own barber shop for over 50 years.
Berlin was chosen to council by the Republican Party to replace Joe Radin, who resigned to relocate. Berlin's term does not expire until Dec. 31, 2013. He has extensive business experience, joining Sebring Container Corporation as a sales representative before working his way up to sales manager then becoming a shareholder as secretary/treasurer before retiring in 2006. He has been a Salem resident for 30-plus years.
Cranmer is a lifelong resident and, like Wolford, a Salem High graduate. He served the city for 34 years as a police officer and then as Safety Director.
During in-house interviews with the candidates and gleaning from other sources such as the recent candidates forum co-hosted by the Salem News, we became aware that each of the three mayoral candidates possesses attributes that would well serve the city.
At this point, we do feel the Wolford is deserving of our endorsement. Yes there have been struggles and disappointments. We all want more jobs in this town. Wolford supported a city income tax that was resoundingly rejected by the voters. He has since then repeatedly stressed a respect for voters' decision to reject additional tax - i.e. he gets it. Now his critics should get over it. An attempt to expand the city northward did not work out. His recent rejection of a proposed city audit was loudly criticized by many. Time will tell on that.
But there has been good and some productivity from the mayor's position. Some jobs have come in on his watch such as those at Salem Chrysler Jeep Dodge and Chester Hoist. MAC Trailer is an emerging jobs creator. Wolford certainly has been active and maintained a high physical profile when it comes to encouraging and pursuing business for the city. He has worked with Larry Kosiba of the SOD Center and SAIDIC - enlisting his assistance was a great decision by all involved. He was behind getting rid of dilapidated houses. His decision to appoint Steve Andres - a Democrat and pro-union man - as director of service/safety was a wise one. Andres is hard-working and dedicated as are those who work in his department. Wolford was a driving force in the city taking over the Super Nationals-related events. That has been a huge success. Organization is everything when it comes to successfully staging an event that brings thousands of people into town. It can be overwhelming and a logistics disaster. Wolford has been a big player in pulling it off.
The mayor is acutely aware of a need for a bolstered police force to combat a burgeoning drug problem in the city and the crimes that it brings with it. He did a fine job in getting four union contracts done this past summer. He extensive experience in governing is a plus. His devotion to civic duty is impressive. Yes running a city is much like running a business. There too are also considerations such as being what most of us call a "people person." He is that and has a public profile that is easily accessible for citizens. We feel he has done enough good during the past four years to warrant an opportunity to serve another four years.
We have been impressed with Berlin's work in his short time as a council member. He is bright, detail-oriented and certainly seems to possess business savvy. He is an asset to the city in his position as a council member and we would like to see him spend more time - he has been doing it less than a year - in that position before perhaps assuming a different leadership role in the future.
Cranmer is likable and a homegrown former public servant. But he has been out of that loop and his platform did not seem as defined as those of Berlin and Wolford.
The mayor's race will be especially interesting because there are three candidates. Cranmer could benefit by that - with a former Republican running as an Independent and maybe still drawing support from that political base.
We encourage all of Salem's voters to vote with their hearts and, regardless of outcome, fully support the next mayor of our wonderful city whether he was someone you voted for or not. After all, we are all in this together.