Two-hour election brings out voters

May 04, 1997


Staff Writer

KEEDYSVILLE - For the nine years that Bryan and Linda Smith have lived in this town off the beaten track, they paid little attention to local politics.

But now that development threatens to change the character of the quiet town they have grown to love, they're taking notice.

"I think people really have to take a serious look at what's going on," said Linda Smith.

And, so it seems, are many other residents.

Eighty-five of the town's 292 registered voters cast ballots Saturday in a special town election to fill a vacant council seat.


It was an election that seemed to particularly divide the town because of candidate Frank J. Shifflett's outspoken criticism of longtime Mayor Ralph Taylor.

After the ballots were hand counted, Shifflett, 66, had lost the election to Taylor's son-in-law, James Kerns.

Kerns, 46, a retired Maryland State Police officer, will serve one year of the council seat vacated by Yvonne Hope, who said she resigned in part because she disagrees with the way town government is run.

Kerns got 49 votes to Shifflett's 35. There was one write-in vote, for Hagerstown Junior College history professor and Keedysville resident Tom Clemens.

Both candidates voted by absentee ballot and could not be reached for comment.

It was an election that seemed to uphold the status quo.

Taylor, 81, has been running the town for more than 30 years. There were many who felt he was wrongly accused of improper leadership.

"I don't think it's fair the way Mayor Taylor's been blasted. He's done his best here when no one wanted the job," said Al Resh, who serves on the town planning board.

Taylor's blunt personality has put off some, but not all, newcomers to the town of 464 residents.

"He's a lot like my grandfather. He's gruff, to the point," said Matt Hull, a supporter who is also on the planning board.

Evelyn Sinnisen, 79, said she is happy with how things are being run.

"Things are really nice, for my part," she said.

Still, many voters said they are dissatisfied.

"I think that it's time the administration changed in Keedysville," said Patricia Marber, who has lived there for three years. "We need a council with a clear idea of Keedysville in 10 years. At the moment, we don't have that."

Marber is worried that a proposed housing development will change the town's village atmosphere and put a strain on schools and utilities.

Hope said the current town administration seems to have contempt for newcomers.

"There's a lack of vision that's frightening to me," she said. "Eventually, we're going to all have to work together."

Some residents complained that the voting period from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday was too short.

That rule was set at a time when townspeople worked and lived in Keedysville. Today, many commute to jobs in the Washington, D.C., area.

In another sign of Taylor's stronghold on the town, voters drove past Taylor Park to vote in the one-story building that houses the library and municipal offices.

Voters stuffed their ballots into an upside-down shoe box, constructed at the last minute after town officials discovered the ballot box was missing.

Although there were pre-election questions about whether town elections are run properly, Shifflett supporters watched the process and voiced no complaints.

Residents may disagree on how to run the town, but everyone seems to agree on one thing: that Keedysville is a wonderful place to live.

In the true spirit of American voting, it was a friendly election. People on opposite sides of town politics discussed gardens and children's birthdays.

"I just wanted to be here to support the town. It's a good place to live," said Linda Walla, a 19-year resident.

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