Pa. town's voters face blank ballots

May 04, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

MONT ALTO, Pa. - The future of Mont Alto is in the hands of nobody.

Voters will be faced with a blank ballot at the May 20 primary election since there is no one running for any of the seven open Mont Alto Council seats or for mayor.

"I don't really know what's behind it all," said Council President Tom Lowson. "It seems to be nobody wants to come forward."

Lowson, who will complete his four-year term at the end of the year, said he hasn't decided whether he'll mount a write-in campaign.


"I had a very trying year last year," Lowson said.

With four resignations in 1996, including that of former Mayor Donald Whitmore, it became increasingly difficult to get a quorum required for a meeting, Lowson said. Because meetings were not held, town business was left undone.

"I was very discouraged last year. There were a number of times we couldn't have a legal meeting," said Lowson. "Now we're behind on a number of projects."

A lack of candidates running for elected office isn't new to Mont Alto. In fact, voter write-in votes have determined winners in the last several elections. With no official candidates, the person with the most write-in votes will win a seat.

"In small towns it's normal," said Jean Horst, administrative assistant in the county's election office in Chambersburg, Pa. "We'll probably get a lot of write-ins."

There's usually not a big voter turnout in the community of about 1,400 people, Lowson added.

"Nobody wants to get involved, I guess," said Council member Robert Rock. "But it's not unique to Mont Alto."

Rock, a past Council president and member from 1989 to 1995, said the only reason he's serving again is because he agreed to fill one of the vacancies created when a Council member resigned.

"I had no intention of going back on," he said. "The group that ran in '95 as write-in candidates didn't fulfill their obligations."

As it stands now, Rock has no plans to run again.

"I'm on the water authority and I have other things to do," he said.

At one time, active county Republican and Democrat committee members encouraged people to run for office, Lowson said. But it's been years since the political committees have been involved in Mont Alto politics, he said.

Lack of interest and time constraints are the main reasons people are not running for the open seats, Lowson said.

"It's not just going down there on a Monday night once a month and just voting on something," he said. Mont Alto has, on a smaller scale, all the same issues and problems as bigger municipalities and cities, he said.

"A number of people who get on Council don't realize the obligation they have," Lowson said.

Mayor Frank Gilreath, who was appointed last December to fill out the remaining year left in Whitmore's term, said he had resons for not running for a full term.

"There are a lot of different reasons for it (not running)," Gilreath said. "Right now I have to be able to devote more time to my family."

Gilreath said that recent problems with the police department, which led to the dismissal of Charles Mills from the police chief's post last month, had nothing to do with his decision not to seek re-election.

Before he finishes his term, Gilreath said he wants to have in place a plan for police department rules and regulations. He said he'll also work with the borough to find a replacement for Mills.

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