Change in the air for town boards
Voters signaled at least some desire for a change of direction on their town boards in local elections Tuesday.
One incumbent lost in each of the three races in Silt, Carbondale and New Castle, while another was retained in each of the contests.
Carbondale’s election results suggested a slow-growth message, but not a mandate. The top three vote-getters ” Alice Hubbard Laird, Ed Cortez and incumbent Russ Criswell ” had been endorsed by the Town Mothers organization, which successfully led a previous ballot campaign rejecting the Crystal River Marketplace big-box project. Incumbent Mark Whalen, who wasn’t re-elected, hadn’t met with the Moms’ approval.
But neither had Stacey Patch Bernot and John Foulkrod, yet they were elected. And the support of the Town Mothers wasn’t enough for Frosty Merriott to win a seat.
These inconsistencies suggest: a) that the town is still significantly divided over growth, b) that growth isn’t the only issue that mattered to voters, or more likely c) both “a” and “b.”
In Silt, challengers Dave Moore and Steve Eichhorst were swept into office, and longtime incumbent Craig Wallace lost. Another incumbent, Dennis Mahan, was the leading vote-getter. But he only beat Moore by three votes, even though Moore, like Eichhorst, was a write-in candidate.
Moore became a central figure in the campaign, as a contractor (like Eichhorst) and developer who has been critical of the town in areas such as permit fees, drinking water quality and the status of the Stillwater development. Some incumbents, including Wallace, believe Moore has a personal agenda and will be detrimental to the board. But Tuesday’s vote suggests that a lot of town residents share some of Moore’s concerns, and other board members should consider more seriously addressing them.
Meanwhile, with Moore now in the position to try to make some of the changes he has been seeking, he faces the challenge of meeting the expectations his supporters have of him. At the same time, he has a new obligation to look at things with the interests of the entire town in mind, and not just his own or those of the people who voted for him.
In New Castle, too, challengers did quite well, even though this election was the least contentious of the three local municipal races. Dr. David E. Schroeder and Sharon L. Owens were the top two vote-getters, with incumbent Duane Guettler being re-elected but fellow board member Frank J. Melody losing.
If area voters were ready for some changes in representation, at the same time they showed a willingness to entrust their governments with more tax money. New Castle voters approved a lodging tax that will be used for town marketing and beautification efforts. And Carbondale residents backed two ballot questions that will secure funding for recreation projects there.
The investments will pay many dividends in both towns, and it was heartening to see voters resoundingly approve them.
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