Jim Wallace

A Stronger Salem
Stronger Salem – 4 Years in Review 150 150 Jim Wallace

Stronger Salem – 4 Years in Review

Today, I am announcing my campaign for reelection to Salem City Council.  When I announced my campaign in 2020, I said I was going to work to improve the city’s economic development, improve our schools, and provide more transparency into our government for a Stronger Salem.  To enable the citizens to judge my effectiveness, I will attempt to give the citizens a report card on what I said I would do if elected to office.

Let’s begin with economic development.  The city had been lacking an effective Director of Economic Development for a long time.  After my election, we were able to drive change and find a new economic development director, Tommy Miller.  Some of the major accomplishments include the Valley Dale redevelopment project, Layman Distribution, the GE building, and Wabtec.  The Valley Dale project is a $50M investment in the city that will deliver 300 apartment units.  This was followed by Layman Distribution, a $6.8M expansion that created 40 jobs and kept the company in Salem.  Next in the pipeline, we found a tenant for part of the old GE Building. STS committed to $32M investment that will create 119 jobs.  Wabtec chose Salem for a $2.7M expansion and 38 new jobs.  We cleaned up the old corner of 419 and Main Street with a $9M investment for high end storage.

Many other smaller projects occurred:  Second on Main, Virtual Reality Center, Stave and Cork, Brood, Rowland Hotel, downtown murals, and the adoption of a strategic plan for economic development.  I expect many more projects to result from the efforts of Mr. Miller.

Economic development is crucial for Salem and its citizens as it helps foster growth, create jobs, and improve overall quality of life.  By attracting new businesses and industries, economic development injects fresh opportunities into the community, providing residents with more employment options and potentially higher incomes. This, in turn, can lead to increased spending within the community, boosting local businesses and supporting a vibrant economy. Furthermore, economic development often brings in new resources for infrastructure and public services, enhancing the overall well-being of the community and its residents.  For these reasons, Economic Development will remain part of my platform for 2024.

Improving our schools was another task.  When I announced my campaign in 2020, I stated that I wanted to reverse the downward trend in the performance of our student’s test scores, increase the opportunities for students to attend the Roanoke Valley Governors school, and seek new leadership at some of our schools.  These were difficult items to address.   We began by putting new citizens on our school board.  As the make-up of the board slowly changed, we began to see positive changes after a new school superintendent, Dr. Curtis Hicks, was named.  As we installed additional new people, we saw more positive changes.

Let’s review some of the changes that have resulted from new leadership.  We now have a 10-point grade scale.  This change provides students with a fair and transparent evaluation system that better aligns educational standards and allows our students to be more competitive when applying to college.  Roanoke Valley Governors School enrollment opportunities have been expanded providing more slots for each grade level and allowing ninth grade enrollment opportunities.  This has empowered students to pursue advanced learning opportunities leading to notable achievements.  The high school shifted to a full Advanced Placement Curriculum providing robust academic pathways that are recognized by colleges and universities.  A Curriculum Improvement Program was introduced leading to significant improvements in student performance in core subjects such as math and reading.  These are just some of the notable improvements that resulted from new school board members and leadership at the administrative office.  Dr. Hicks is making progress in bringing positive changes to our schools that will provide better outcomes for our students.  I look forward to continuing improvements in our schools.

Quality schools and good test scores are important as they are indicative of a strong educational system.  This is crucial for individual and societal success. Quality schools provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills to thrive in the future, whether in higher education or the workforce. Good test scores often reflect effective teaching methods, engaged students, and a supportive learning environment. Additionally, high-performing schools can attract families and businesses to an area, boosting property values and economic development. Overall, quality schools and good test scores are key components of a thriving community and a prosperous future for its residents.

My last platform plank of 2020 was providing more transparency to your city government.  We have made some progress on this topic.  Citizens wanted to have a voice before Council.  Now citizens can address Council during our meetings.  Council meets quarterly to review citizen comments and determine if action is appropriate.  I have made myself available to any citizen who wishes to meet, and I have attempted to regularly communicate with the citizens regarding what is happening in their city’s government.  There is more work to do here which is why transparency will remain a plank of my 2024 reelection campaign.  I would like to see two by two meetings stop and council debate the issues in a public forum such as a work session.

Transparency in Salem is crucial as it builds trust, accountability, and civic engagement. When government actions are transparent, citizens understand decisions better, leading to increased trust. It also helps hold officials accountable, ensuring resources are used ethically. Transparent governments encourage civic engagement by providing information for public participation in discussions and decision-making.

Speaking of transparency, I will be running as a Republican candidate in the upcoming election.  I was raised as a fiscal conservative with a sense of personal responsibility.   Those values remain to this day.  I ran as an independent when the election was in May, but now that it is in November, I no longer think it is feasible to run as an independent.  Rest assured that my core beliefs have not changed and if reelected, you can expect the same emphasis on the core issues.

I am adding a new plank to this year’s campaign.  After winning election in 2020, I realized I could make a positive impact on our city’s appearance by advocating for change in our zoning codes, enforcement of codes, and attempting to enhance the appearance of the city’s main arterial roads.  This process is just beginning, and I would like an opportunity to see it through to completion. You may have noticed some of my efforts as several sign skeletons have been removed.  These are the sign frames one used to see with lightbulbs exposed.

An attractive city with well-maintained infrastructure, green spaces, and appealing architecture can enhance the overall well-being of its residents while attracting new businesses, tourists, and new residents. Proper zoning codes are essential to regulate land use, ensuring that different areas are designated for appropriate purposes such as residential, commercial, or industrial use.  Overall, attractive cities with proper zoning codes can create a more livable, vibrant, and sustainable environment for everyone. 

As I campaign for reelection to the Salem City Council, I remain committed to the core values and objectives that have guided my efforts over the past term. Economic development, educational improvements, and government transparency have been at the heart of my efforts.  I am proud of the progress we have made in each of these areas. Looking forward, I pledge to continue these efforts with renewed vigor and to introduce new initiatives aimed at enhancing our city’s infrastructure and aesthetic appeal. With your support, I will strive to ensure that Salem remains a thriving, vibrant community where every citizen can succeed and contribute to our shared future. I hope I have earned your trust and ask for your vote to continue the work we’ve started.  Let’s get out the vote for a Stronger Salem!