Amidst the bustle of Memorial Day weekend, residents and property owners in South Bethany made time to cast a vote in what became one of the town’s best election turnouts. Residents, candidates and council members alike met outside South Bethany’s Town Hall on Saturday, May 25, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to support each other, discuss current issues in the town and have their voices heard.
“The tax raise really drew a good quantity of people out of the woodwork,” said Council Member John Fields, who was not up for re-election this year. “We had about 500 votes this year, and we usually only get 300 to 400 votes. It’s wonderful that residents are getting so involved in the town now.”
Three seats with two-year terms on the council were up for contention this year, with seven candidates vying for the positions. Incumbents Joseph “Jay” Headman, Bonnie Lambertson and Richard Ronan all ran for re-election, against challengers Michael Matera, George Morabito, Timothy Saxton and Robert Youngs. A fourth seat – with a one-year term – will be filled by Dianne Matera, who ran unopposed after her sole opponent dropped out of the race.
Each citizen was allowed three votes, either at the polls or via absentee ballot. In the wake of controversy over the town’s proposed budget and property tax increase – which was adopted May 16 at a lesser level than originally proposed, $1.30 per $100 of assessed value, up from 65 cents per $100, rather than the proposed $1.65 per $100 – the bulk of the voters turned out for this year’s challengers, with Headman the only incumbent to be re-elected.
Saxton led the voting with 357 total votes, while Youngs came in second with 341 votes and Headman garnered 340 votes, to fill the three open seats. Lambertson and Ronan fell short in the vote count, finishing fourth and fifth in the voting, respectively.
Headman, Saxton and Youngs, will be sworn in at a special council organizational meeting on Saturday May 30, at 10 a.m. at the town hall. They will join Diane Matera, Fields, Councilwoman Marge Gassinger and Mayor Gary Jayne at the council table, and the new council’s work for the 2009-2010 session will begin immediately, with a discussion of goals, and setting of a schedule for council meetings in the coming year.