Challenger Mullins, incumbents Burgoyne, Hall, Nichols win seats

Council election draws high turnout in Sykesville as Kasnia is ousted

May 06, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Record numbers of Sykesville voters returned incumbents Michael Burgoyne, William R. Hall and Jeannie Nichols to the six-member council Tuesday. But Michael Kasnia lost his seat to Charlie Mullins, a two-term veteran who left the council in 1991.

Nearly 500 of the 1,936 registered voters turned out, the largest number to vote in a town election in anyone's memory. The three hours it took three judges to tally the votes also set a record.

"It's a record turnout, the highest ever, and a record count," said Mayor Jonathan Herman, from a seat on Town House porch that afforded a view of the counting room.

The polls closed after 12 hours at 8 p.m., and the arduous counting by hand began, behind closed doors but in full view through a window of those outside.

Among them was Dan Seledee, the last of 490 voters. He raced into the Town House seconds before the polls closed.

"I ran up the steps with 30 seconds to spare," said Seledee, voting for the first time in the town. "I feel lucky to live in a municipality where I have a say about what is going on."

It seemed that nearly everyone in the town of 3,500 was interested in the closely contested race that had nine candidates vying for four council seats. It was quite a change from two years ago, when 85 people elected an unopposed Herman and two council members from a field of three.

About 30 hopefuls and their supporters waited outside the Town House in the damp night air Tuesday.

"This is the kind of election that makes you nervous," said Burgoyne.

The receptionist's phone rang nonstop with callers wanting results. "No results yet," Rena Hudson Toland said repeatedly for nearly three hours.

She cut short a list of promised return calls after it grew to more than 10. She declined one caller's request to put the results on an answering machine.

After phoning several times, Mark Rychwalski said he could not stay home. He went to the Town House to wait with a crowd that had swelled to about 50.

The high voter turnout indicated interest in town government, he said. Others said it was in response to several controversial issues, including a proposed rezoning that would bring a $3.5 million corporate headquarters for Fairhaven Retirement Community into the town.

Campaigners printed the usual signs and sample ballots. The incumbents ran as a ticket and circulated 400 fliers proclaiming their accomplishments. The civic-minded posted signs with the date of the vote.

"We posted signs to remind people to vote, and the campaign really got people involved," Rychwalski said.

Several misread the "Vote May 4" signs. Five people showed up to vote at the planning commission meeting Monday night.

"They were in here during the day Monday, too," said Toland.

Laura Lindberg, town clerk and treasurer, supervised the tally. The numbers of ballots and candidates made the process tedious, she said.

"We had to read each ballot and periodically make sure everybody had the same count," she said. "Believe me, we wanted to be out there with the results as quickly as everyone else wanted us. I could hear people on the porch saying, `They are almost done,' when we weren't halfway through.

"We were very deliberate about the count," she said. "I am very confident and have no doubt that it is correct."

Burgoyne led the field with 257 votes, followed by Mullins with 235 and Hall with 227. Kasnia came in nine votes behind Hall. Scott Hollenbeck trailed with 37 votes.

Cynthia Campbell and Connie Higgins, newcomers to town politics, garnered 221 and 218 votes respectively. Both women said they were pleased with the numbers.

"We got votes, and we will be back," said Campbell.

Nichols, who was appointed to fill a council vacancy last summer, was required by the town charter to run for her seat for the two years remaining in the term. She overcame a challenge for that two-year period from former Councilman Garth Adams by a vote of 215 to 180.

Carol Hall waited at the polls in her husband's stead. She wanted to deliver the news that he had won a third term. Hall, a Baltimore firefighter, had pulled night duty at the fire station.

"He better not be in bed sleeping, while I have been sitting here waiting all this time, " she said.

Hall, Burgoyne, Nichols and Mullins will be sworn in May 17.

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