Businessman wins Aberdeen mayor race

Incumbent loses

record turnout recorded


Charismatic businessman S.Fred Simmons defeated incumbent Douglas S. Wilson last night to become mayor of Aberdeen, ending a contentious campaign that saw a throng of candidates vying to lead the growing military outpost.

Simmons, 53, who launched his campaign early with signs asking Who is Fred Simmons?, was elected to the towns top post as voters also shook up the City Council, removing two of four incumbents, and struck down a referendum that would have granted police binding arbitration collective bargaining.

The turnout more than 2,200 was a record for the city.

The voters identified problems and came to the polls, Simmons said shortly after the results were announced. Its invigorating and humbling to see that kind of turnout, and Ill do the best I can for them.

In Bel Air, two incumbents won re-election to the Town Commission.

Aberdeen voters entering the citys polling station at the Aberdeen Senior Center yesterday got a taste of what the town will be like with their new, higher-profile mayor. Simmons is well-connected in the city and county.

While most candidates stood along the buildings sidewalk holding signs and campaign literature, Simmons set up a large tent and arranged for an airplane to fly overhead pulling a banner bearing his name.

Voters said Simmons, who owns an insurance business, offered a change of pace.

He is a good businessman with a lot of energy, said Tom McLaughlin, a 63-year-old mortgage banker. I want people who are interested in getting things done and taking risks.

Simmons will begin his two-year term as local, state and federal officials begin to plot how to manage the growth on its way to the region as a result of the military's base consolidation plan. County officials said Monday that 70,000 people could move to Harford and surrounding areas over the next decade as a result of the new jobs headed to Aberdeen Proving Ground.

While the weeks leading up to Election Day were fraught with contention over failed salary negotiations with police, voters rejected by the slimmest of margins a charter amendment that would have given police the right to send disputes to an arbitrator, whose decisions would be binding. It failed 1,134 to 1,062.

The city told residents that with a tight budget, binding arbitration could have led to increased property taxes, which some voters said turned them off. Nevertheless, all three candidates the Fraternal Order of Police had supported were victorious, which lodge President Joseph K. Bray said was comforting.

Randy Ewald, a 58-year-old mechanic, said for him, the mayoral race was a toss-up. He went with Simmons as a change of pace.

I'm former military, and if you stay in one place too long, you become complacent, said Ewald. I thought the mayor we had was good, but just thought it was time for a change.

Despite the loss, Wilson, a 52-year-old accountant, put on a strong showing, garnering 718 votes to Simmons 1,092. He had gone unchallenged in the previous two elections since winning by one vote in 1998, and some suggested he was slow to react to Simmons offensive.

The voters have spoken, a disappointed Wilson said afterward, declining to elaborate.

In addition to Wilson, Simmons also beat out challengers Myra Fender, a 69-year-old real estate agent and former mayor, and Janice Grant, a 72-year-old civil rights activist and teacher. It was the first time the city has had more than two candidates for mayor.

In the council race, incumbents Michael G. Hiob and Ronald Kupferman received the most votes, followed by newcomer Dave Yensan and Ruth Elliott, the city's first elected mayor, in 1992.

Across the county in Bel Air, a much milder election played out with incumbents David Carey and Robert Preston retaining their seats on the Town Commission. Newcomer Stephen Cannon, 27, decided to run after the town considered canceling elections because of a lack of challengers.

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