Patty Washabaugh wins Mount Airy's first special election

Alex Mann
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

Mount Airy voters elected Patty Washabaugh to Town Council in the town’s first special election Monday, Sept. 10.

Washabaugh, 59, a six-year veteran of the planning commission and contract manager for Hughes Network System defeated opponents Matt McDonough, 18, a recent high school graduate who has lived in town his whole life and Scott Sirchio, 45, a planning commission alternate and chemist for the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

“It feels very good to be in a warm place,” Washabaugh said in the warm council room, after a day campaigning in adverse conditions. “I had two outstanding opponents.

“I am extremely proud that everybody gave me the opportunity,” she added. “I will work hard.”

She earned 441 votes, compared to 249 for Sirchio and 48 for McDonough. There are 7,107 eligible voters in Mount Airy — 4,242 on the Carroll County side and 2,865 in Frederick County.

Seven hundred thirty nine residents, or roughly 10 percent of the eligible voters, cast ballots, “which is a really good turnout,” said Bruce Walz, chairman of the town’s Board of Elections.

The results were announced at a monthly council meeting Monday. The council approved Washabaugh’s election and nominated the veteran planning commission member to the Streets and Roads commission.

Candidates set up camp outside the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company Reception Hall, sheltering beneath pop-up tents as strong winds and consistent rains that began over the weekend hovered over Carroll County through Monday.

But it was election day. And as the polls for the Town of Mount Airy’s special election opened early Monday morning, weather was no deterrent for determined candidates, volunteers and voters.

As the rain became a steady mist around mid day, voters continued to trickle in, “slow and steady,” Walz said. Walz said historically about 6 percent of the town’s eligible voters turn out for regular elections. But this is Mount Airy’s first special election — unchartered territory for the town of about 9,500 residents.

McDonough, Sirchio and Washabaugh were running to fill the council seat vacated by former Councilman Scott Strong’s July 9 resignation. Strong, who in 2017 was re-elected to town council, left about three years remaining in his term after accepting an engineering job in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“We’re very lucky to have three great options,” Melissa Straley said after casting her ballot Monday. Though she’s “sad Scott Strong left.”

While Straley and other voters parked, hustled toward the polls to escape the rain, the candidates tried to draw them to their tents for one last pitch, reinforcing themes from their respective campaigns.

McDonough maintained his hardline stance on maintaining Mount Airy’s small-town charm.

“No major growth throughout the town,” he told the Times, flanked by half of his campaign funding team: his mother Ine McDonough. “We’ve gotta fix traffic issues and any other safety issues throughout the town.

Sirchio touted his sustainable growth message — one that focuses on infrastructure improvements and boosting the downtown business climate.

“I want to see our town prosper and build a sustainable future,” he told the Times from beneath his election-day canopy. “I want everyone to know that I’m looking to improve our economic situation downtown and revitalize our businesses.”

Washabaugh doubled-down on her experience and eagerness for a more influential role.

“The reason I’m running is because I love serving our community, but also I’ve been a planning commission member for the past six years and I’m aware of a lot of the many big decisions that are going to be coming before town council,” she told the Times. “I would like a vote at the table.”

Some voters came with their minds made up, they weren’t to be swayed by last-ditch lobbying.

Straley had no trepidations about who she’d like to see replace Strong, having supported his namesake, Sirchio, from day one, she said. Sirchio’s smarts, involvement in local charities and initiatives and decision making prowess made her choice to vote for Sirchio an easy one, she added.

Carole Lyons, a longtime Mount Airy resident, voted for Patty Washabaugh because she thinks there needs to be a woman on the Town Council, she said.

Janeece Wilson, who also voted for Washabaugh, a longtime neighbor and friend of hers, because, she said, “everything (Washabaugh) believes in is for the good of the town.”

Other voters zeroed in on particular topics in choosing whom to vote for.

Jay Gaver, a 31-year resident of Mount Airy, voted for Matt McDonough because he put up a “common sense stand on medical marijuana,” he said. “Back in the day there was no such thing as medical marijuana.”

He said he believes it’ll be used recreationally, even with the medical tag, “Maybe if there was some kind of pill,” he’d reconsider, Gaver explained.

The historic flatiron building was a key subject during the Aug. 16 candidate forum, with each candidate describing their own vision for the worn structure. It’s a topic that some voters took to heart.

“I’d like to see the flatiron building torn down and left in rubble,” said Dick Shinnick, who’s lived in Mount Airy for about five years. Any attempt to restore it would be an exercise in futility, he added.

Shinnick said he voted because it’s his civic duty.

Lynne Galletti said she wants to see action from the Town Council.

“I’ve lived here 29 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes in our town,” Galletti said. But, “people come up with great ideas… and then things never get done.”

“I feel very strongly that you need to look at the big picture of town, not just your neighborhood,” she said. Many people only get involved when it affects their neighborhood, she added with frustration.

For Galletti the big picture means smart growth, she said. “Growth is inevitable,” so it’s important to have a plan.

Galletti did not say which candidate she selected on the ballot, but spoke highly of Sirchio.

“He has gotten involved. He does look at the big picture,” she said. “He’s done his homework. Sirchio acts on logic, thinking.”

Multiple voters talked of revitalizing Main Street.

“We’ve got to do something with Main Street to make it more user friendly,” 22-year resident Sandi Arndt-Kohlway said. There are narrow strips of sidewalk where you can’t get by, she added.

Arndt-Kohlway did not say directly whom she voted for, but said that she was sold on the candidate’s experience on the planning commission.

Sandy Ashoff, who’s lived in town for almost three decades, echoed Arndt-Kohlway’s chief Main Street desire, walkability. She’s known Washabaugh for a long time, and was “definitely interested in what she had to say,” she added, lauding the candidate’s experience.

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