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Martinsburg gets new mayor

June 13, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - With all precincts reporting, two newcomers and a former councilman apparently won seats in city government Tuesday in an election marked by unusually low voter turnout.

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Four incumbents who also won Tuesday will join the trio on the seven-person city council.

The new mayor, 25-year Councilman George Karos, 68, was unopposed. He received 1,389 votes.

The loudest gleeful reaction of the night came from Ward 2 Councilman Richard Yauger, who whooped "Yes!" when he heard that he had convincingly beaten Earnest Sparks, the current mayor. Yauger received 162 votes while Sparks received 86 votes.

Christopher Baker had a lower-key response upon learning he had apparently unseated Ward 1 Councilman Merle "B.I." Butts, who had served all but two years since 1970. The unofficial tally had Baker finishing with 218 votes, nine more than Butts, with 209.

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First-time candidate Roger Lewis defeated two others in Ward 4 - incumbent Oden Barrett and challenger Elizabeth Anne Keefe. Lewis received 172 votes while Barrett received 82 and Keefe received 42.

Gregg Wachtel, a councilman from 1992 to 1996, was voted back in. He earned an at-large council spot, joining Councilman Donald Anderson, who was re-elected. Wachtel received 722 votes while Anderson received 628 votes.

In other uncontested races, Ward 3 Councilman Max Parkinson, 65, and Ward 5 Councilman Glenville Twigg, 54, also won. Parkinson received 365 votes and Twigg received 104 votes.

All results are unofficial. The city council will meet Monday at 5 p.m. to conduct a canvass. After the canvass is complete, candidates have 48 hours in which to request a recount, according to City Recorder Sharon Flick.

She said absentee ballots can still be counted if they were postmarked by Tuesday.

Flick said about 20 percent of the registered voters came out Tuesday, compared to 35 percent in the last city election, which was four years ago.

Each of the terms is four years and begins on July 1. The salaries are $500 a month for mayor and $200 a month for council member.

Baker, 24, the son of former city Councilman Mark Baker, listened to results in the City Hall courtroom with his father, his brother, his aunt, his grandmother and family friends.

At the beginning of the night, Christopher Baker said he was "anxious." Afterward, he described his emotion as "relieved."

"I put a lot of hard work into the campaign," he said, adding, "I ran against a man who had been on the council longer than I've been alive."

"I wish him well on the city council," said Mark Baker. "I know I enjoyed the eight years I served.

Yauger, 67, nearly broke into tears a few times as he received congratulations.

"The people in Ward 2 are fantastic," he said.

Looking at the tally sheet, Yauger read the results "162 over 86." He joked, "It's like (my) blood pressure right now."

Sparks, 61, who was mayor for 10 years after serving one term as Ward 2 councilman, said he is probably finished with political office. "I didn't want to run this time, but city workers asked me to run," he said during a phone interview from his home.

"I have been working, taking care of the mayor's business," he said, "and I really haven't been out campaigning."

Lewis, 63, also spent election night at home. He was with friends. "I felt that's the way it should be," he said.

"I have made a concentrated effort to contact on a one-on-one basis the residents and voters of Ward 4," he continued. "That was really a determining factor."

For Wachtel, 47, the suspense while sitting in the courtroom and listening to results from all 12 precincts was "nerve-wracking," he said.

Feedback from residents was good from the first day he announced his candidacy, Wachtel said.

Anderson, who also won, has been on the council for 10 years.

Kimber White finished third in the at-large race with 503 votes, followed by Stan Berman, 356 votes, Michael Griffin, 283 votes, and Charles Logan, 189 votes.

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