I Won! What’s Next?!

So I won my Town Council seat by 27 votes!

Election Day

It was a long day, starting at 6:00 AM. Candidates could verify the ballot boxes were empty, and the ballots were correct, including directions to vote for one candidate for each ward.

The polls opened at 7:00 AM. I voted and the set up my sign, table/chair to meet and greet voters. The weather was sunny and hot (88 degrees). I took a break mid-morning to change clothes, and apply sunscreen. (my house is 10 minutes from Town Hall). I took another break mid-afternoon, walking to Burger King for lunch.

Late afternoon there was a severe thunderstorm and lightening. I retreated to my car, while the other candidates remain outside under their umbrellas!

Voting surged during lunch (12:00 PM) and then later (5:00 PM), voters returning from work . Some voting during the thunderstorm!

The polls closed at 8:00 PM and the candidates or their designated representatives, could observe the vote count. Unlike the primary, I chose not to watch. I was just too tired to sit for several more hours while the votes were counted.

I then collected several nearby lawn signs and went home, not worrying about fraud.

The results would be posted on the Town’s Election Page. I thought the tally would be completed by 10:00 PM.

The Results

The race was far closer than I initially imagined – 241 to 214! But greeting and seeing voters throughout the day, I saw and felt a much different vibe from the March primary.

First, voter turnout was lower than expected.

There was only a two week primary campaign versus the nine weeks for the general election.

The status of the Town police became a dominant issue, because of recent national events, and Town officer’s emotional and persistent advocacy to fund a shift to the state retirement system (estimated $1.6 million entry cost, $400K annual cost).

My opponent’s husband is a Town cop, while another candidate (another ward) father is a retired County cop. Many police , (on duty and retired) and their supporters gravitated to them. We all clustered together in front of the Town Hall, to see and greet voters (beyond the electioneering distance), so I overheard many interesting conversations and comments. Some were very critical of the current mayor, and the Town was not supporting them.

I understand the desire for improved benefits and appreciate what they do. But I was very disappointed by their sense of entitlement, demeaning of town staff, who work from home, while they are “out there and exposed to COVID”.

One town officer in particular and in uniform, standing adjacent to my table, talked to another candidate, openly criticized the Mayor. He has a right to express his opinion, but not in public, in uniform and on the job. For me, this violates the basic tenants of leadership I learned in the US Army. I served with many officers that I didn’t like, but never openly criticized them in public!

My opponent was banking on full support from this “blue wall”, their friends and families. I wasn’t sure there were votes for me to overcome this, particularly with a low turnout. So my confidence dropped throughout the day.

I kept refreshing the election page website after 10:00 PM for the results. At 11:15, I received two texts at the same time saying congratulations, one from a friend and the other from the mayor. I was surprised and asked for the actual numbers. Then the website posted the results, confirming I has won! I was excited and relieved , but then reality took hold – now the real work begins! I am now accountable!

The Candidate, 1972

The Next Days

Wednesday :

  • Picked up all lawn signs; including thanking the property owners
  • Thanked by email, and FB Messenger supporters
  • Emailed thanks to family, friends who supported me
  • Attended virtually a joint Planning Commission and Town Council meeting to review long delayed but now active large residential project
  • Congratulated the other council winners
  • Updated by FB page

Friday:

  • Set meeting appointments for Monday, May 10 with the Police Chief and Director of Public Works, to get up to speed about pressing issues and concerns. NOTE: I purposely copied the mayor and town manager, to set the example to use the chain of command, sorely lacking in previous town councils
  • Reached out to my opponent asking for her ideas and issues. We will talk after she takes some time off

Taking Office

I take office 7:00 PM, Monday, May 10, in person, but with appropriate COVID protocols. It will also be live streamed through Facebook Live and YouTube. We will all receive an iPad, Office 365 account and FOB key to Town Hall . We can also register for the Maryland Municipal League (non-profit support organization for town elected officials) summer conference, in-person and virtual, in June.

Each council member is assigned to a board or commission. We provided the mayor our with three choices. My choice is the downtown developed corporation ( I helped established in 2012) and the Parks/Recreation Commission.

We then have our first council work session Tuesday night. I just now (Sunday night, 9:00 PM) received an email from the Assistant Town Manger about a Parks/Recreation Commission meeting 7:30 AM Wednesday morning.

So we are off and running!

Key issues:

  • Review and pass draft FY 22 budget
    • switch police retirement system? Include all town staff?
    • Tax increase? Non in 20 years
  • Review developer’s agreement for long delayed residential project, attempted this month, by lame duck council member
  • Review two previously submitted annexation requests; several others waiting to submit

My goals:

  • Improve outreach to citizens
    • New town website
    • Outreach to homeowners associations
    • return calls/emails within 24 hours.
    • Maximize Town’s GIS (Geographic Information System)
  • Revive downtown development corporation
  • An advocate for a walkable, pedestrian, bike friendly community

It’s been an adventure and learning experience getting here!

The real work starts now!

Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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