Charles Salvaggio, a Memphian, and owner and operator of Memphis Door & Hardware for 14 years moved to Germantown and soon became Mayor. Charles, his wife Barbara, and sons Tony and Jerome lived in Poplar Estates.
Charles became active early on, serving as President of the Poplar Estates Homeowners Association in ’81 and ’82, and helping to reorganize the association. He was the special activities coordinator for the Germantown Family Fourth Celebration. He also served on the Parks & Recreation Commission and was appointed to serve on the City’s 2004 Committee. Charles was interested in preserving the ‘flavor ‘of the community.
Charles was a member of the East Shelby County Republican Club and a member of the Germantown Chamber of Commerce. He also had a love for sports cars and old cars.
In November 1986, 32year old Charles Salvaggio upset Vice-Mayor Jay Kahn in the race for Alderman. He did not want to characterize himself as part of the old or the new. “There should be one government in Germantown”, he said.
He supported better communication between the Board and the community, working closely with Welcome Wagon and the Newcomers Club.
Germantown in 1990 was the 10th largest city in Tennessee with a population of 33,700 citizens. When Warner Hodges was elected Mayor in 1986 and Charles ran successfully for Alderman, both men had lived in the suburbs less than 10 years, and both were in their 30s. Hodges resigned in the middle of his four-year term, and Charles was elected Mayor by the Board beginning January 9, 1989.
Mayor Salvaggio was faced with naming a new City Administrator, an Assistant to the City Administrator, a Police Chief, the Director of Development, the Police Chief, and the City Clerk.
1989 was “a year of change, challenge, and opportunity.” In 1989 Neshoba from Exeter around the New Germantown Centre would be extended westward connecting to Cordova Road, providing an alternate east-west route through the suburb’s business district, Houston Levee Park would open, soccer play began at Johnson Road Park and a study by the City’s Greenbelt Task Force linking Germantown Parks and open space around the City would begin.1989 also saw the opening of Houston High School. Finally, traffic signals were installed at Farmington Boulevard and Exeter, and at West Street, North Street, and the railroad tracks. A Design Review Manual was even presented.
Charles won his first full term on November 7, 1990. Germantown celebrated its sesquicentennial (1841- 1991) in 1991. The city’s assets included a strong financial base, a low crime rate, and a corps of volunteers. It was the only city with a AAA Bond Rating. The consolidation of City and County School systems continued to raise its head. A committee was appointed to decide how to finish the theatre in the Germantown Center without raising taxes ($4 million). Governor Ned McWherter appointed Charles to A Tennessee Advisory Committee on Intergovernmental Relations to monitor the operation of Federal, State, and Local Relations in Tennessee.
By the summer of 1992, Germantown had seen an increase in the number of new residential permits, yet residential growth was seen as leveling off. Charles saw the need to look to the commercial sector for growth trends. Approximately 25% of overall revenue came from the commercial and retail sectors, illustrating a growing awareness of the importance of the business sector. There was a renewed sense of responsibility to assist the business sector whenever and wherever possible. He asked, “what did the city need to maintain a healthy revenue structure?”
Charles wanted to see Germantown become more self-contained, having its own ambulance and EMS service, promoting its own economic development, and supplementing funds through a world-class public education foundation, all the while acknowledging that Germantown is dependent on the health and well-being of Memphis. “We must have a thriving business community.” The goal of having a premier residential community with all the amenities and conveniences was paramount. Charles initiated the Economic Development Commission and worked closely with the Chamber of Commerce.
In 1993, Charles chose not to run for another term in 1994 and explore a run at the U.S. Congressional seat in the 7th District. He would lose that race to U.S. Attorney Ed Bryant by less than 1% of the total vote.
One of his last challenges would be the November 24th tornado that occurred over the Thanksgiving Holidays. In February of that same year, the city has faced a terrible ice storm.
But what would be Charles’ six-year legacy as Mayor – a new Performing Arts Centre, preparatory work for a new Community Library, two AA Bond Ratings from Moody’s and Standard & Poors, the city’s ranking as the safest city in Tennessee, awards for budgeting excellence, a leader in the fight to stop school consolidation, state funding for public improvements, national recognition for the Parks & Recreation Department, and new ballfields.
In gratitude for his accomplishments, Mayor Goldsworthy appointed Charles to the Germantown Performing Arts Board of Directors. The Germantown Lions Club awarded him 1994 Citizen of the Year.