Tara E. Buck
Bill O'Neil and
Dianne Walbrecker were elected to
three-year terms on the town commission Tuesday.
Eight-year town commissioner veteran Clifford Sweeney
was defeated as one of the most contentious elections here in recent memory had
its final hoorah.
Mr. O'Neil is president of COPE, or Citizens
Organization to Preserve Emmitsburg. He ran on a platform of slowing
residential growth and garnered the most votes of the five candidates with 201.
Ms. Walbrecker came in second with 181 votes.
Mr. Sweeney came in fourth, with 174 votes.
Growth was the key
factor in the town's election, which saw one of its highest turn-outs.
More than 420 residents came out to cast their vote for
two town commissioner candidates. There are 1,102 registered voters in town.
The candidates were Mr. O'Neil, Mr. Sweeney, Ms.
Walbrecker, Harold Craig and
Mr. Craig earned 179 votes and Mr. Mazaleski took in
Several who came out to vote said they appreciated the
spirit of debate that surrounded the campaign.
David McCarthy, a resident here for six years, wouldn't
say who he supported, but did say the election brought up a good discussion
about growth and the town's future.
"I really do think that everyone has the best interests
of the town at heart," he said of the candidates. "And I do actually think that
pretty much every candidate - I mean the issue is growth — I think pretty much
every candidate realizes we need slow growth, so I think there was kind of a
meeting of the minds with that."
One woman who didn't give her name said she recently
moved to the town and was turned off by the election's
"When all this erupted, I thought, 'Oh no! Do we really
want to live here?' But we did manage to talk to a couple of the candidates and
found out this is kind of an unusual occurrence," she said, adding that she
supported Mr. Sweeney.
"He's already been doing it for eight years, so why
upset the apple cart at this point?" she said.
Lori Rubeling, a resident here for two years, said the
"whole issue of growth has been brewing for several years."
She said the election did bring about some good things.
"The town is in conversation with itself and the
current problems with people. ... I think it's an exciting election," she said,
adding that she supported Ms. Walbrecker and no one else.
"I sat on the zoning board with her for several years
and a couple of other committees," she said, adding that Ms. Walbrecker is the
"most even-handed person and will use reason to make the best decision. She
wouldn't be a commissioner who brings an agenda with her and that's why I voted
for her and for only one person."
Throughout the month leading up to the election,
campaign signs were stolen and the "letters to the editor" sections in several
local newspapers were aflutter with accusations and spirited debate.
Several residents said the election also pitted the
"old" versus the "new" residents, with many life-long residents resentful of
the "new" element represented by Mr. O'Neil and many COPE members.
In the end, Mr. O'Neil prevailed, however, and the town
now waits to see what the new blood will bring to its board. Mr. O'Neil has
pledged to work with current Commissioner Art Elder, also a COPE member, who
has said the outgoing board members defeated many of his initiatives since he
came to hold a seat.
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