Newcomer receives most votes in Fenwick

A record 460 Fenwick Island citizens voted in the town council election Saturday, placing a newcomer on the bench and leaving out a veteran of the seven-person council.

Todd Smallwood, a 39-year-old businessman and council rookie, received 338 votes Saturday, the most of any of the five candidates. Former town Mayor Peter Frederick, who filed to run this year after taking a year off council, became odd man out in Saturday’s election, receiving only 217 votes. With four seats open, Frederick was the only candidate of the five to be denied a council seat.

“I was pretty shocked and humbled by the response,” said Smallwood, who spent the days and weeks preceding the election riding his bicycle through town, introducing himself to fellow residents. “I don’t have a track record of being on council. I can’t go by my past achievements. I don’t know enough to know enough. I want to work for everybody in the best interest of the town.”

Unlike Smallwood, Frederick was not surprised by the outcome of Saturday’s poll. Frederick had been criticized recently for being a divisive force during his time on council and as town mayor. Frederick essentially confirmed this characterization during a speech in town hall recently, saying he was forced to “bruise egos” during his tenure, for the betterment of the town in a time wrought with controversy.

Much of the debate leading up to Saturday’s election seemed to single out Frederick — sometimes by name, sometimes not — for being the source of contention during his tenure, when heated arguments on the bench were not uncommon. Other candidates stressed “teamwork” and “disagreeing agreeably,” and urged residents to vote for candidates who would continue the respectful debate on the bench that has become the norm recently.

“It wasn’t a surprise,” Frederick said. “At least two of the four (other candidates) were campaigning very strongly against me. Once you start something, you try very strong to finish it, which is what we did.”

Ironically, the election’s outcome came down to Vicki Carmean, another former councilperson, and Frederick. The pair was frequently at the center of heated debates on former councils when they served together and had been referred to as “oil and water.” Carmean ultimately picked up 327 votes, 110 more than Frederick.

Suggestive language similar to that heard pre-election continued during this week in interviews regarding the outcome, all avoiding mentioning Frederick by name, despite the implications present.

“I thought it was wonderful,” Carmean said of the outcome. “It was an awfully hot day, but it was worth standing out there for four hours in the sun, shaking hands with people. I thought it was just wonderful and, of course, it turned out good for me and three others.”

Chris Clark, a councilman who won his re-election bid as he emerged as a strong critic of Frederick, was similarly pleased with the results.

“I think the people have spoken,” Clark said. “I think it was great. I think this is Todd Smallwood getting the most votes, and I think that that is a good sign that people are looking for freshness and youth. And the greatest thing was the turnout. The turnout was huge.”

Citing a turn in the makeup of this year’s body of voters, current Mayor Audrey Serio — who was also re-elected to her council seat Saturday — agreed with Clark about the turnout.

“There were a lot of young voters who had not voted in town before who were eligible. It was good to see a whole new group,” Serio said. “It was great.”