In what was believed a first for Chestertown, voters elected a woman as mayor yesterday -- and in what could be another first, a black candidate was leading in a tight contest for a seat on the Town Council, an election official said.
Elected mayor is Margo Bailey, a council member often at odds with the town's incumbent mayor, Elmer S. Horsey, a colorful and often combative leader who decided not to seek election after 16 years in office.
Among the issues on which they disagreed was a proposal to build a huge Wal-Mart store, which Ms. Bailey found at odds with the county's master plan.
In a field of three candidates, Ms. Bailey received 648 votes to defeat a fellow council member, Vito Tinelli, who had 513 votes, and Richard Proctor, who trailed with 27.
Council races were held in two of the town's four election wards.
In the 1st Ward, Harrison C. Bristoll Jr. was the winner with 260 votes, defeating Kirk P. Williamson with 173 and Mary Jean Hudson with 48.
In the 3rd Ward, Thomas A. Gross Sr., was leading with 122 votes tallied last night -- ahead of incumbent Mabel Mumford, with 116. Another challenger, W. Whaland Clark III, trailed with 38 votes. Mr. Gross is black.
Susanne Hayman, head of the town election board, said that as many as 50 absentee ballots remained to be counted today. She was uncertain how many absentee ballots were cast in the 3rd Ward.
Ms. Hayman said that to her knowledge, Ms. Bailey will be Chestertown's first female mayor and -- if his lead holds up -- Mr. Gross, a deputy sheriff in Queen Anne's County, would become the first black member of the council.
Mayor Horsey had been a dominant figure in the picturesque town of fewer than 5,000 residents since he defeated L. Vernon Downey in the 1977 mayoral race.
He ran unopposed for three terms and -- until the recent Wal-Mart battle -- had been considered unbeatable, even with his close ties to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who is not popular in Chestertown. Mr. Horsey's decision against seeking a fifth term came as a surprise.
Officials said that 1,198 of Chestertown's 2,083 eligible voters cast ballots.