Energetic campaign ousted incumbents

3 newcomers won in Sykesville council race

May 03, 2007|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

The vigorous crusade by three newcomers who put up numerous signs and went door to door in the 4,500-resident town in South Carroll helped them oust three incumbents who ran a lackluster campaign for seats on Sykesville's Town Council, Mayor Jonathan Herman said yesterday.

Pharmaceutical representative Frank Robert, accountant Scott D. Sanzone and attorney and real estate agent Leo J. Keenan III defeated Council President Mark Rychwalski and incumbents Russ Vreeland and Jim Kelley in Tuesday's municipal election.

The victors opposed an unpopular property tax increase that council members proposed last spring but later scrapped. They also pushed for economic development and more fiscal responsibility as cornerstones of their successful campaign.

Until Tuesday, incumbents had not lost an election since 1999. But Tony Roman, an adjunct political science professor at Carroll Community College, said there is an "anti-incumbency issue in that area."

`Fresh ideas'

He said South Carroll residents just want to gest "some fresh people and fresh ideas in."

Carroll County Commissioner Michael D. Zimmer, who lives in nearby Eldersburg, said the proposed tax increase and a municipal battle over a basketball hoop turned residents against the incumbents.

Robert said merchants in Sykesville's historic downtown also helped the slate garner the most votes among the seven candidates.

Rychwalski, a loan officer, Vreeland, an accountant, and Kelley, director of sales for a transportation logistics company, had all hoped their experience would help them stay in office.

A fourth challenger, Jonathan Caplan, a trial attorney and chairman of Sykesville's Historic District Commission, finished last, trailing Vreeland by five votes.

Rychwalski said the winning candidates ran a dishonest and aggressive campaign that circulated misinformation about town dollars being used to fund a basketball hoop and an underpass of Route 32. The money for the underpass came from the State Highway Administration, Rychwalski said.

A council member for six years, Rychwalski said he would stay involved in town projects.

Hoop protested

Mayor Herman said residents protested loudly when the council approved the installation of a basketball hoop in September in one of the town's parks. That decision might have turned voters against the incumbents, Herman said.

Several hundred residents had signed a petition asking the council to stop the installation of the hoop in the 3.5-acre Bloomfield Park, a preserved green space designated for passive recreation, Herman said.

Robert, Sanzone and Keenan supported the residents who opposed the basketball hoop in that location, Herman said.

Though the town once had nearly 100 portable basketball hoops, they were eventually banned as the council tried to start relocating the hoops in parks about five years ago, Herman said. Installing hoops in other parks went well, but the Bloomfield Park effort erupted in controversy.

"It kind of galvanized these folks into some sort of coalition," Herman said. "It was a small issue that got rather large."

Town Manager Matthew Candland said about 550 people cast ballots, about 25 percent of Sykesville's registered voters. Incumbents had won in every Town Council election, held every two years, since 1999, Candland said. Three of the council's six seats were up for grabs. The remaining seats will be up for election in 2009.

The new council members are expected to begin their four-year terms at the May 14 council meeting.

"We all love the town," Robert said. "We're going to try to take it to the next level."

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

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