What Makes Salem Tick?

Written by Michael Rose, Statesman Journal

Prisons, parking and public services all are part of Salem

State government is an omnipresent force in Salem. Besides driving the city’s economy, the public sector contributes to the city’s character.

What makes Salem tick? Two former city of Salem managers, and the current city manager, shared their views on the pros and cons of being a government town.

Larry Wacker

Larry Wacker, who served as Salem’s city manager from about 1992 to 2000, said the economic stability provided by state jobs is a big advantage for the city. The dominance of the public sector might also be at the root of the city’s conservatism.

“We tend to be rule followers because here is where all the rules are made,” Wacker said.

City government and state government mostly got along during Wacker’s tenure, but there was one contentious topic: where to open new prisons.

Salem had five state prisons at the time (it now has four). The city didn’t want any more prisons because of the negatives that “spin off from the corrections system,” Wacker said.

The retired city manager is hardly the first to contend that Salem’s multiple prisons place a burden on city services. The theory goes that impoverished families of inmates move to Salem to be closer to locked-up loved ones, bringing with them social problems.

Continue reading: What Makes Salem Tick?