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McCleaf in, Slayman out as Williamsport's mayor

March 08, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - A cheer erupted when Walter Williams stepped outside Town Hall on Monday night to announce that Williamsport had a new mayor.

"A clean sweep," said Williams, a watchdog resident who supported James G. McCleaf II's winning ticket.

After a campaign in which skateboarding was a big issue, McCleaf defeated five-term incumbent John W. Slayman, 330 to 135, according to complete but unofficial results.

The rest of McCleaf's independent ticket swept into office by equally wide margins over the Independent Progressive Party slate.

Monty R. Jones defeated Chris South, 322 to 137, for assistant mayor.

In a four-way race, Nelson F. Deal and Jeff Cline won two open council seats. Deal received 343 votes, the most of any candidate. Cline was right behind with 342 votes.

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The losing Independent Progressive candidates were Fred M. Cole III, who had 120 votes, and Kenneth Murphy, who received 109 votes.

Of the 1,399 people registered to vote in Williamsport, 471 voted, including three absentee ballots. Election officials said the 34 percent turnout was high.

McCleaf said he was surprised to hear how lopsided his win was, but said he got plenty of good feedback from residents during the campaign.

"They wanted a change," he said.

McCleaf promised to have a 90-day plan as he starts his administration.

Slayman walked home, around the block, dejected, with his wife and running mates.

As he settled down on a couch in his living room, he said the scene outside the polling room is a sign of what will be.

"All I can say is: skateboard heaven," Slayman said.

Slayman said it was a campaign filled with lies and he was upset. He wanted to say more, but his wife, Elissa, begged him not to sling mud. "He's better than that," Elissa Slayman said.

John Slayman said he's given too much to the town to disappear as the new administration takes office. "I'm going to be their worst ... nightmare," he promised.

McCleaf served one term as a councilman, then resigned in February, shortly before the end of his term, to run for mayor.

Jones, who also was on the council, resigned midway through his term to be McCleaf's running mate.

One of the most debated issues during the campaign was what the town should do for children.

Some Independent Progressive Party candidates opposed having a skateboarding park in town because of the expense and liability. But Jones said a skate park is possible, if the town doesn't run it.

As elections officials spent three hours counting ballots, skateboarders spent much of that time zipping back and forth on the pavement outside, among the candidates and observers.

At one point, Williams poked his head out the door to tell them to be quiet. C. Lee Butts Jr., chairman of the election supervisors, said the Washington County Sheriff's Department should come "to clean 'em out."

This year, bucking the statewide trend of increased technology for elections, the town switched from voting booths to paper ballots.

Butts said that eliminated machine error. Also, at about $60 total for the ballots, the election cost a fraction of what it has in the past, he said.

The terms of mayor, assistant mayor and council member are each four years.

The salaries are $4,000 a year for mayor, $3,500 a year for assistant mayor and $2,500 a year for council member, according to Clerk/Treasurer Bonnie J. Errico.

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