Renée Ferris Turk arrived at City Hall on July 1, 2020 to be officially sworn-in as a first-year member of Salem City Council. By the time she exited Council Chambers that day, she had made local government history.
Turk was voted the first female mayor in the 52-year history of Salem, as she hit the ground running like no other elected official, since Salem became an independent city in 1968. She is the first female to serve as a mayor of either Salem, Roanoke City or Vinton.
“I am honored to have been selected,” says Turk. “It was a bit of a surprise. There are five excellent council members and any one of us could be in this position easily because everyone is so geared toward the same goal. And that is to serve the citizens of Salem to the best of our ability.”
Her family has been in the service business for quite some time. Her husband David taught history and government at Salem High School for three decades and coached volleyball and lacrosse for 22 years each. Her brother-in-law, Frank, was Salem’s Finance Director for over 40 years and her brother, Ray, is a former Roanoke City Councilman.
All three of their children are products of Salem City Schools. Michael, 33, is a Senior Manager of Capital Markets and Analytics for Capital One and part-owner of Olde Salem Brewing. Daniel, 31, is a realtor here in Salem for Re-Max and Rachel, 29, is a Dr. and Counseling Clinical Psychologist in the Athletic Department at the University of Richmond.
Mayor Turk is a Roanoke College graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, economics, and education. She has taught business classes at Salem High School, the general sales manager at Saturn of Roanoke Valley and an account executive for Q99. She retired from Wheeler Broadcasting in 2014.
She was not the only newly elected member to earn a title on Wednesday. Jim Wallace was named Vice Mayor in a vote by his fellow Council members.
While this is his first venture into city government, Wallace has 29 years of technical sales experience and he currently manages the Salem branch of Tencarva Machinery Company, The privately held corporation relies on his strong ability to effectively explain complex issues, ideas, and concepts in layman’s terms.
In addition to his employment at Tencarva Machinery, Wallace owns and manages numerous real estate investment properties in Salem, serves as the treasurer for Caroline A. Wallace, DDS, PC., is one of seven founders of Parkway Brewing Company. He is also an active member of the Rotary Club of Salem and First United Methodist Church.
Wallace earned his bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering at North Carolina State University and he has a master of business administration degree from Kenan-Flagler Business School, The University of North Carolina.
The Vice Mayor resides in Salem with his wife, Caroline, and his youngest son John who is a rising senior at Salem High School. His older sons, J.W. and Charlie, attend the University of North Carolina Greensboro, and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, respectively.
Turk and Wallace assume their new roles, effective immediately.