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Bowers wins Smithsburg mayor's post

May 13, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

by Joe Crocetta / staff photographer

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Bowers wins

SMITHSBURG - Former Police Chief Tommy Bowers was elected Smithsburg's mayor Tuesday, defeating by an unofficial six votes incumbent Mildred "Mickey" Myers, who had fired him.

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Bowers got 291 votes to Myers' 285 votes, Town Clerk Betsy Martin said. There was one write-in vote for mayor, and seven ballots that did not include votes for either mayoral candidate.

Light rain that fell steadily throughout the day did not keep voters in this town of 1,600 from the polls.

A record 583 residents - or 52 percent of the registered voters - cast paper ballots in the election, Smithsburg election officials said.

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Bowers was with his family at Town Hall when the results were announced. Myers awaited results at her home, according to Town Clerk Betsy Martin.

"I want to thank all the people of Smithsburg for coming out to vote," Bowers said after his victory was announced. "I hope the election is now over."

Bowers said earlier he had stopped reading media coverage of the election about five days ago. "I just want the election to be over, and hope the town can be united again," he said. "I think that's possible."

Myers and the Town Council fired Bowers as town police chief last August, infuriating some residents and prompting Bowers to enter the mayoral race in an attempt to unseat her.

Voters also chose two new council members, and approved a referendum that would allow voters to amend the town charter to allow the recall of elected officials before their terms end.

Michael Rohrer and Charlie Slick were elected to fill council seats held by Eugene Pryor and Joseph Slick. Pryor did not seek re-election. Slick forfeited a chance at a second council term when he entered the mayor's race in what he said was an attempt to bring unity to a divided town. He failed to gain enough votes in the primary election to run in the general election.

Rohrer got 347 votes, while Charlie Slick got 310.

Losing candidates for council and their vote totals were: Jeffrey Berk with 202 votes, Jacob Johnson with 160 votes, and write-in candidate Timothy Gaines with 58 votes. There was one other write-in vote.

The new mayor and council members traditionally are sworn in after the "old business" portion of the first town meeting following the election, which will be on June 2.

The mayor's job pays $2,000.

The recall referendum was approved by a vote of 310 to 206. The referendum was crafted by Bowers' supporters upset by the circumstances surrounding his dismissal. Those supporters got enough signatures on their petition to get the referendum on the ballot.

Council members had asked voters to defeat that referendum. They promised if it was voted down they would enact their own recall measure immediately after the general election.

They said their version listed specific reasons for which an elected official could be recalled. They claimed the version voted on Tuesday was too general, and could allow voters to kick out politicians just because they didn't like them, or didn't like the way they voted.

Smithsburg's elections are nonpartisan. While party politics didn't play a role in Tuesday's vote, personalities did. In a recent, unsigned newsletter sent to Smithsburg voters, supporters of Myers accused Bowers of being short-tempered and childish.

During the election campaign, Myers defended Bowers' firing, saying he had failed to properly do his job. She said she and the council gave him several chances to change his ways, and accused Bowers of losing his temper with town employees.

Bowers called Myers a power-hungry egotist who tried to micromanage his department when he was chief of police, and accused her of running a "good ole boy" system of town government.

Both Bowers and Myers denied allegations leveled against them.

Myers ran on her record. Bowers said if elected he would provide a more open and responsive government.

Tuesday's election came the day after a moderated debate between the rivals, in which questions about Bowers' firing were declared off limits.

Bowers was top vote-getter in last month's three-way mayoral primary, getting 219 votes to 148 for Myers. Joseph Slick got 58 votes.

Slick said then that he didn't think he could serve another four years with Myers as mayor.

While the mayor's race has been settled, a lawsuit Bowers filed against the town after he was fired remains open. Bowers is asking for reinstatement to his job as chief, and for back pay and benefits. A judge ruled against Bowers, who then appealed.

Bowers said no decision in the appeals case is expected until next January or February.

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