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Looking back, ahead on Bel Air's election [Editorial]

Tom Mitchell, an election official and Bel Air resident, makes his selections on his own ballot for the two openings on the Bel Air Board of Town Commissioners at Bel Air Town Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Tom Mitchell, an election official and Bel Air resident, makes his selections on his own ballot for the two openings on the Bel Air Board of Town Commissioners at Bel Air Town Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 7. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Once again, the candidates showed up, even if the voters didn’t, in last week’s Bel Air town election.

There were five candidates for two seats on the Board of Town Commissioners, a race that featured one incumbent and four people who had never run for any political office.

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Official final results, according to town Director of Administration Michael Krantz, who organized the election for the town, are as follows:

Patrick T. Richards: 262 plus 2 absentee/provisional = 264 votes;

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Amy G. Chmielewski: 158 plus 2 absentee/provisional = 160 votes;

Michael D. Kutcher: 119 plus 2 absentee/provisional = 121 votes;

Christopher J. Jordan: 115 plus zero absentee/provisional = 115 votes.

Richards was the incumbent, and incumbents typically fare well in Bel Air town elections. The other seat was open because long-time Commissioner Robert Preston decided to step aside after 15 years of service and turn his seat over to someone else.

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First and foremost, town residents owe Preston a debt of gratitude for all he has done for his hometown, not just as an elected official, but as a family man, businessman and booster for Bel Air.

Though Preston won’t officially leave office until next week, we believe all of us can look back on the past 15 years and say without a doubt that Bel Air is a better place and Preston’s involvement at Town Hall and beyond is one of the key reasons for the many improvements the town has experienced, both physically and in general community spirit.

While we hasten to congratulate all the candidates, both winners and losers, for stepping forward and offering to serve their fellow residents, there’s no sugar-coating that the Nov. 7 election resulted in yet another dismal voter turnout.

According to Krantz’s final report on the election, there were 7,459 Bel Air town residents eligible to vote. There were 370 ballots cast at Town Hll on Election Day, four absentee ballots sent in – three of which were accepted and seven provisional ballots cast – one of which was accepted. There were 10 write-in ballots.

So, the grand total of ballots cast and accepted works out to 374, a turnout of 5 percent. Yes, the weather on Election Day was uncooperative in that it was raining most of the time. Yes, the number of people eligible, while legally correct, is probably somewhat inflated in the sense that many people who are eligible have no idea Bel Air holds its own elections and has its own government. But still, what does it say about a town with a current population estimated at about 10,300 when just 160 votes wins a seat on the main governing body?

Bel Air isn’t alone among Harford County’s three municipalities when it comes to low municipal election turnouts compared to eligible voters, but it remains well below both Aberdeen and Havre de Grace. Enough about the turnout; however. Looking forward to the future, we welcome Patrick Richards’ return and Amy Chmielewski’s arrival on the Bel Air Town Board.

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