Mona Becker, a former councilmember, was elected as Westminster’s first female mayor Tuesday night. And, although she’s excited to have the title, it was not the focal point of her campaign.
Becker won the mayoral election with 1,020 votes to Dennis Dillon’s 591 to cap a contentious and controversy-filled campaign that resulted in 1,619 ballots being cast, a more than 50% increase over the number cast during the last mayoral election.
The mayor-elect said she didn’t want to make potentially being the first woman mayor a part of her platform because there were so many other important issues to run on. However, she said it feels great to have the title and an important result of the election.
“Things are changing a little bit as far as the role of women in municipal government,” she said after mentioning Sykesville elected its first woman mayor last week.
Becker said her win reflects a change in the voting population in Westminster. She added women in leadership positions make for good role models.
Stacy Link expressed similar thoughts about women as leaders after winning Sykesville’s May 4 election to become that town’s first female mayor. It’s a rarity in Carroll County. Julia Gouge, who became Hampstead’s mayor in 1983, was the first woman to win the top spot in a Carroll County municipality. Linda Boyer served as mayor of Mount Airy from 1986 to 1990.
Becker noted that the number of votes she received surpassed the previous record for total votes cast in a Westminster mayoral race, 1,008. Although she wanted to see more people vote, she was impressed with the numbers and the number of absentee ballots. Out of the 178 absentee ballots sent in, 60 included a vote for Becker.
Dillon said in an interview Wednesday morning that he also wished more people would come out to vote and noted how low the numbers were compared with the approximately 12,000 registered voters in Westminster.
“It shows a lot of people don’t pay attention to municipal elections and don’t care about,” he said. “It just tells me a lot of people weren’t even paying attention.”
He said he has no animosity or ill-will about the loss and congratulated those who won. He shook a few hands after the results were read Tuesday night at the city’s new administrative building on Main Street.
On Wednesday, Dillon said he hopes those elected will lead the city “in a steadfast manner” and makes sure everything that was discussed during the campaign will be looked at.
Becker said Tuesday night she was elated after hearing the results.
“The number of people who just came out to express support for me, it’s outstanding,” she said Tuesday night.
“It’s one of the biggest mayoral victories in Westminster history,” Robert Wack, former council president of Westminster, added. “And it’s a really big referendum on this community’s values.”
Three candidates were vying for two spots on the Westminster Common Council. Newcomer Dan Hoff received the most votes with 1,264 while incumbent Tony Chiavacci easily earned a fourth term with 1,250 votes. Morgan Barkley-Mathers finished with 366 votes.
Hoff said he was thrilled, honored and happy to be working with the rest of the council, but that he was even happier for Becker as the city’s first female mayor. He said it sends a message that Westminster can make its own decisions and does not need to be influenced by the outside community.
Although it’s Chiavacci’s fourth time winning a city council election he was “just as nervous this time as I was the first time.” He said he’s thrilled for Becker and Hoff for winning. And grateful to voters for electing him another four years.
The mayoral campaign had been fraught with controversy and contentiousness.
The public questioned partisan involvement as county and state Republican groups got behind Dillon’s campaign, Dillon alleged malicious intent from a city newsletter that printed a council candidate’s information where Dillon’s was supposed to go and current Mayor Joe Dominick, who was not running for reelection, accused a campaign letter sent from Dillon to Republicans as an attempt to “dog whistle homophobes.”
All of that led up to Dels. Haven Shoemaker, R-5, and Reid Novotny, R-9A, penning a letter to Westminster alleging election integrity issues on Monday and the interim city administrator responding with a letter outlining how each of the delegates’ assertions was without merit.
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It did seem to increase interest in the election with the 1,619 ballots cast nearly equaling the total of the past two elections combined — 686 votes were cast in 2019 and 1,008 were cast in the last mayoral election, in 2017.