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North Liberty Staff Mourn Mayor's Death

NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- Residents and city staff are mourning this week after the sudden and unexpected death of their long-time mayor, Tom Salm.

Salm, 61, served the city as mayor since 2007. He died after a heart attack on Sunday.

"Nobody would have expected this, and it's just hard," said city administrator Ryan Heiar.

"The last 24 hours has been hard on our entire town. It's been hard on our fire department," said fire chief Eric Vandewater.

"Shock. A lot of tears. A few tears. Like I said, a good friend," said library director Jennie Garner.

"I met Tom when I interviewed for the city of North Liberty, and then I knew him as Mayor Tom Salm. And, of course, I still know him as mayor, but we were much more than that. He was a good friend and a mentor to me in a lot of ways, and in a lot of ways, a fatherly figure, when I needed something like that," Heiar said.

"I honestly think Tom just loved the city. He loved North Liberty. He'd been here so long, 40 plus years, so he watched the town grow. And he grew along with it," said Garner. "He was at every event, he never missed a Blues and BBQ event the last 8 years, helping out from morning to night."

"Whether you'd just moved to North Liberty of you had been here 50 years, you were part of North Liberty. I think that's going to be hard for us for a while," Vandewater said.

"I think Tom is irreplaceable as an individual. He won't be replaced," Heiar said.

"North Liberty is by far a better community, and I think the people who live here and have businesses and visit here are better off for him being a part of North Liberty," Vandewater said. "I know I'm a better person for just knowing him and having the opportunity to serve him as fire chief for him."

"But Tom would want us to move forward and move on and keeping doing what we're doing in support of North Liberty, and that's what we'll do," Heiar said.

Mayor pro tem Gerry Kuhl, who has served in that role previously, will take on the position of mayor until the city council decides whether it wants to make an appointment or have an election. That decision will likely be made at the council's first meeting in June.
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