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Bowers tops in Smithsburg vote

April 28, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

SMITHSBURG - Fired former police chief Tommy Bowers defeated incumbent Mildred "Mickey" Myers by 81 votes Monday night in the town's mayoral primary election.

The two will face each other May 12 in the general election.

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Bowers received 219 votes to 148 for Myers, election officials said. Councilman Joe Slick received 58 votes and was eliminated from the mayoral race. Slick, whose council seat is up for grabs in the general election, gave up that seat to run for mayor.

Town officials said 429 of the town's 1,124 registered voters - 38.1 percent - cast ballots on Monday. They said it was the largest turnout for any election in memory.

Two write-in votes were cast for other people and two ballots were disqualified.

"I'm pleased so many voters showed up," Bowers said. "I hope more show up for the general election. It's not over until it's over."

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Myers indicated she thought the furor caused by the dismissal last August of the popular chief may have affected the vote.

"The only thing I can say is the voters have spoken," she said. "I feel I've served the town well for many years with pride, and I continue to stand on my record.

"I feel my course of action has been correct, and in time I think the people of Smithsburg will realize that. I urge people to ask questions and get the truth before they vote on May 12."

Slick was outspoken about Myers and the election. "It's more or less the way I expected it," he said of the vote. "I think Mickey kind of lost her crown. I think that's the way it's going to go in the general election too. I think the people who voted for me will vote for Tommy."

Slick said he would not vote for Myers in the general election. "She's stepped on a lot of feet," he said. "There was too much 'I, I, I' ... Frankly, the only reason I decided not to run for council again was because I couldn't put up with another four years with her."

It took election officials at Town Hall about an hour and a half after the polls closed at 8 p.m. to count the paper ballots. They stayed behind locked doors until the results were announced.

Town officials said the only problem with the balloting was a complaint that pencils were being used by voters. The pencils were replaced with pens, they said.

Myers showed up at Town Hall just as the polls closed. Bowers arrived a few minutes later. While the votes were being counted, Myers sat in her office. Bowers and his wife stayed in the historical society's Heritage Room just a few feet down the hall.

Before the polls closed, some voters talked about the primary that pitted the mayor against the man she helped fire.

Judith Ferro said she was surprised when told 381 residents had voted by 7:15 p.m. "That's amazing," she said. "Then there were a lot of people really following up on their previous thoughts and demonstrations. People felt strongly enough, whether I agree with them or not - to come out and vote. I think that's great."

Robert and Pat Jones said they had all but forgotten about the election and were out doing yard work when they heard neighbors talking about going to the polls. They rushed to Town Hall to vote. They refused to discuss their votes.

Billie Boyer also declined to say for whom she voted. "I don't think I can," she said. "I don't think that's a good idea in a small town like this."

Cindy Ballard was more outspoken about her allegiance. "I voted for Bowers," she said. "I knew him as chief. I knew him to be an honest man, a community man who cares about the people and talks to the children on a one-on-one basis."

Ballard's son Jason, 12, said he came along to the polls to show his support for Bowers. "He's cool," the boy said.

Myers, 62, is running for a second four-year term as mayor. She defeated incumbent John O'Neal in a two-person race in 1994.

Bowers, 47, was hired as police chief by Myers in 1994 and fired by her and the council last August. He said he entered the race at the urging of residents.

Bowers accused Myers of micromanaging the police department. He said he felt she was power hungry and accused her of running a "good ole boy" system - allegations Myers denied.

Bowers said he was running to create a more open and responsive town government.

Slick, 70, said he decided to run to re-unify a town he felt was hurt and divided over Bowers' firing, and to bring "professionalism" back to town goernment.

The decision to fire Bowers spawned demonstrations by his supporters in front of Town Hall, and petitions for a referendum that would allow voters to amend the town charter to allow the recall of elected officials before their terms end.

That issue will be on the general election ballot.

Bowers sued the town to regain his job and for back pay and benefits. That case is now being heard by an appeals court. A lower court ruled that Myers had the right as mayor to fire him.

Turnout for the general election is expected to be high. In addition to the mayor's race, four candidates are also vying for two council seats now held by Slick and Gene Pryor, who is not seeking re-election.

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