Wood, Mitchell winners in charged elections

Voters turned out in droves in Ocean View on Saturday, April 12, to conclude a long and hard-fought campaign among six residents for the positions of the town’s mayor and councilperson from District 3. In the end, it was a decisive victory for both mayoral candidate Gordon Wood and would-be councilman Perry Mitchell, who both recorded margins of victory near or above the 100-vote mark.

When polls opened at 8 a.m. on Saturday, residents were already lined up to cast their ballots. Traffic at the town hall remained heavy throughout the day, with the exception of a brief period mid-day, during which a thunderstorm appeared to keep voters at home and the line at the voting machines slowed to a trickle.

But not even rain or the ticking clock kept some voters home, as the final three voters arrived at the polling place with three minutes or less to spare — the last of them getting in line to vote just as the clocked ticked off the 5 p.m. deadline. But that was in time enough for them to secure a ballot and the right to help decide who will help run the town for the next three years.

More than 700 voters cast ballots, with more than 900 voters registering for the 2008 town elections, even though only one council seat and the mayorship were at stake.

Election official Tom Sylvia didn’t have long to wait before he could read off the results from the voting after polls officially closed just after 5 p.m. With absentee ballots counted during the day’s voting and machine counts nearly instantly ready, within 10 minutes of the polls closing, the final numbers were ready and read off to an eager crowd of candidates, supporters and interested citizens.

Gordon Wood topped opponent Vincent Esposito in the machine count, 335 to 254, with absentee ballots also coming in in his favor at 56 and 38, respectively. The final tallies: 391 for Wood, 292 for Esposito.

“I hope they do a good job,” said Esposito immediately after the results were announced. “I wish them well.”

“Thank you, Ocean View,” said Wood, who also thanked his supporters, especially his wife. “Today is a victory for Ocean View,” he added, “to have so many register and to have so many vote.”

Wood had, prior to the tally being announced, emphasized the import of this year’s mayoral and council elections.

“This is the biggest election in 35 years,” commented outgoing District 3 Councilman Norman Amendt, who said he was glad to be returning to the role of citizen alone.

“This is the biggest election in the history of the town,” Wood replied.

Indeed, turnout and support for the various candidates would seem to indicate that the election spurred the interest of far more people than usual in the town’s elections and in its government in general.

Four candidates ran for the single available council seat, each garnering a group of supporters who turned out to vote and voiced public support for their candidates of choice.

In the end, Mitchell garnered a decisive lead in the vote count, carrying 306 machine-cast votes and 52 absentee ballots, for a total of 358. His nearest competitor, Susan White, tallied 159 machine-cast votes and 19 absentee ballots, coming in at 178 total votes. Rival Joe Martinez received 68 machine-cast votes and 18 absentee ballots, for 86 total. And Wally Brown brought in 50 machine votes and five absentee ballots, totaling 55.

“I’m glad you chose to run,” Councilman Richard Nippes told Brown after the results had been announced.

“I’ve received accolades for running a clean and fair campaign,” Brown emphasized, concluding an election season fraught with negative advertising and heated rhetoric between the candidates and their supporters.

For Mitchell, the campaign has stretched more than nine months, since he first made it public that he intended to run for the District 3 seat. And the results may be pleasing not only to him but to those who put council comportment at the top of their reasons for voting.

“Harmony and rapport on the council,” Mitchell stated as his top priority as he joins Nippes, Roy Thomas and Bill Wichmann on the council, with Wood stepping in as mayor.

“There will be change in Ocean View,” Mitchell promised, echoing the theme of the campaigns both he and Wood ran. Mitchell thanked all who helped him with his campaign, as well as all the voters who turned out Saturday.

For Wood, the town’s financial situation will be a major theme out of the starting blocks as he steps in as mayor.

“We have to look at the budget all over again,” he warned. Wood has said none of the town’s financial areas are “off the table” as far as potential budget cuts are concerned, as it continues to face shortfalls in transfer tax revenues.

Outgoing Mayor Gary Meredith, like Amendt, said he was ready to take a breather from his role in town government. Both men have completed the limit of two three-year terms in their offices.

“I’m glad to hand it over,” said Meredith. “They campaigned hard and they deserved to win.”