Salem elects its first-ever female mayor

After being elected to council in May, Renee Turk will serve as the city's mayor

SALEM, Va. – On Wednesday morning, the Salem City Council named its new mayor and for the first time in the city’s history, it’s a woman.

After the newly elected members of council were sworn in, they nominated and selected Renee Turk as the new mayor. Turk is no stranger to politics; her brother Ray Ferris was on Roanoke City Council for a number of years.

“I’m humbled, excited, I am thrilled that people feel like they can support me in a position like this,” Turk said.

Turk was elected to the council for the first time in May.

The city’s previous mayor, Randy Foley, nominated Turk for the job. He served as mayor from July 2008 until June 30, 2020.

“Family and supporting friends that have been so encouraging and saying please do this, and I’m glad I did. It’s been a great ride, getting wilder every day,” Turk said.

Jim Wallace, who was also elected in May, will serve as the city’s vice mayor.

Nelson Harris is a former Roanoke mayor and local historian, most recently publishing a history of the Roanoke Valley during the 1940s.

He said Turk is not only making Salem history, she’s making regional history as both Vinton and Roanoke City have never had female mayors.

“This is history, this would be the first woman mayor in the Roanoke Valley,” Harris said. “The elected officials should be reflective of the communities that they serve, so to have this kind of diversity amongst the Roanoke Valley leadership, I think is a very positive and welcome development.”

Turk admits the mayorship in Salem is primarily a figurehead role, but she hopes more women and young people see this as a call to get involved.

“Your community and the decisions made by your local government is what determines what’s going to go on in your life more so than some of the larger elections,” Turk said.

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