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Bill O'Neil and Dianne Walbrecker elected to three-year terms on the town commission

Tara E. Buck
Frederick News Post

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 Stanley Mazaleski.

Mr. Craig earned 179 votes and Mr. Mazaleski took in 109.

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 contentious tone.

"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.

Read other news stories related to the Emmitsburg Town Government