Havre de Grace voters finally got to have their say Tuesday on who holds three of six seats on their City Council for the next two years — following a seven-week postponement of the election because of the coronavirus pandemic — and a majority went with incumbent Council members Casi Boyer and James Ringsaker and Council President David Glenn.
“I know they’ve been on [the council] before, and they’ve done a good job until now,” said voter Laura Ames, who said she chose the three incumbents — she had one other option, challenger Richard Wehner Sr.
Glenn, who was elected to his first term on the council in 2012, was the top vote-getter Tuesday with 706 votes, followed by Boyer with 672, Ringsaker with 561 and Wehner with 227 votes, according to the unofficial totals announced Tuesday night after the polls closed.
“The people spoke their mind, and I’m pleased with the results,” said Ringsaker, who won a second term. “I’m really looking forward to serving the city for another two years.”
Boyer was appointed to the council in late 2017 and was elected to her first full term in 2018. She said, in a Facebook message Wednesday, that she is “deeply appreciative of the community’s support” for a second term, adding that she is “honored by the trust they have placed on me to serve and protect what makes Havre de Grace so special.”
“Great things are happening in our community,” she continued. “I am so excited about the potential just on our horizon. I want to make sure everyone in our community benefits from what lies ahead.”
Glenn is the longest-serving member on the council, having been elected in 2012. He said Wednesday that it is “humbling” that he received the highest number of votes, which he attributed in part to his long-term support of building a replacement middle and high school in Havre de Grace. The combined school is scheduled to open at the start of the next school year — Glenn toured the building last week with the mayor, fellow council members and city staff.
“It looks good,” he said. “The kids are going to be the real benefactors once it opens in the fall.”
Glenn described a feeling of “reassurance” that the voters sought to return him, as well as Boyer and Ringsaker, to the City Council.
“It was kind of a vote of confidence that people are pleased with our current efforts,” he said.
Glenn later congratulated his council colleagues for running “outstanding campaigns” and thanked Wehner, as he “showed an interest in Havre de Grace city government by deciding to run.”
The returning council members are scheduled to be sworn in during the next council meeting July 6.
Mayor’s term extended
A charter amendment extending the mayor’s term from two to three years also was approved, 545-332 votes. The extension will take effect after the next mayoral election in 2021. The six members of the City Council serve two-year terms, and elections are staggered each year with three seats contested each time.
“I was for it,” Ames said of her choice on the charter amendment. “It sounds good if [the mayor]‘s doing a good job.”
Current Mayor William T. Martin, who has been in office since 2015, supported the charter change, as well as City Council members.
“I’m very pleased that the majority of voters saw the logic behind the three-year term,” Martin said after the results were announced.
City leaders have promoted a three-year term for the mayor, whom Martin described as the “CEO of the city,” responsible for creating the annual budget and serving as the head of the city administration. Officials have said three years gives a new mayor enough time to develop an administrative team and budget that is truly their own and not simply inherited from the previous mayor. The mayor will have an extra year to gain experience as the city’s chief executive before seeking reelection, plus the mayor’s term will line up with the three-year contracts given to department heads, according to proponents.
“With the mayor being the CEO of the city, it matches the job description to the job duties,” Martin said of a three-year mayoral term.
The city election was initially scheduled for May 5, but it was postponed to Tuesday so the city could be in compliance with strict state regulations governing how many people could gather in an indoor space, meant to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
The state has since loosened its regulations; the coronavirus is still active in Maryland, but the number of hospitalizations has been decreasing steadily and a number of retail stores and restaurants are reopening their indoor facilities.
Havre de Grace City Hall reopened to the public June 15, and it served as the polling place for Tuesday’s election, coordinated by the city’s Board of Elections with support from Harford County Board of Elections staff.
Poll workers took precautions, however, such as wearing masks as well as plastic face shields provided by the city. Voters also had to wear masks and were asked to maintain distance from each other while in the polling place.
“Other than that, we worked hard to keep the election as normal as possible,” Martin said of the safety precautions.
Ames, the voter, said the process of filling out her paper ballot was “pretty easy.”
“There was not a single incident,” said George Deibel, chair of the city elections board.
Voters requested 97 absentee ballots, and 74 had been returned as of Election Day, plus two provisional ballots had been cast, Deibel said as he read the results. Those ballots will be counted during a canvass scheduled for next Tuesday.