Voters pick Paonessa, 3 newcomers for council seats

CHARLES TOWN – Nearly twice the number of residents took part in last week’s Charles Town City Council election than in 2013, according to Kiya Tabb, city clerk.

The results: Mark Reinhart and Wayne Clark lost their bids for re-election and former councilman Don Clendening will not return to office.

 

Tabb said 624 voters cast their ballots compared to 388 ballots cast in the 2013 election.

Early voting results were higher, too, with 234 votes cast in 2013 compared to 366 in this year’s election.

“We are very pleased by the community participation,” Tabb said. “I think the fact that all four races were contested compared to two contested seats in 2013 may have been a factor.”

Election results won’t become official until today after press time. Council members will be sworn in June 15.

According to unofficial results, Michael Tolbert, 53, won the Ward 1 seat now held by Reinhart, who was seeking his second term; Ward 2 newcomer Nick Zaglifa, 42, will replace Clark, who also was seeking a second term; Councilwoman Ann Paonessa, 45, will have a third term after defeating Clendening, 75; and in Ward 4, Bob Trainor, 58, beat Keith Veler.

Michael Slover of Ward 4 opted not to seek re-election because of the recent redistricting. Ward boundaries were adjusted to make each ward’s population more even. Had he sought another term, Slover would have had to run in Ward 3 against incumbent Ann Paonessa.

Tabb said redistricting may have been a reason for an increase in voting numbers.

Some negative elements to the campaign surfaced after a NAACP candidate forum held May 11 when Talbot, Zaglifa, Paonessa and Trainor were the only candidates to appear.

A group of city residents, including Ward 1 Councilwoman Sandy McDonald, distributed a letter saying, among other things, that the candidates’ support for home rule was little more than a cover for increasing taxes. The letter recommended voters support Reinhart, Clark, Clendening and Veler.

None of the incoming council members said they would let the letter affect them.

“I’m reaching out to council members, letting them know what I’m passionate about,” Tolbert said. “I want to connect the outer communities with downtown. I will continue to walk around the community. My big issue is the removal of dilapidated buildings.”

Tolbert said in the age of social media, the attack letter probably wasn’t a good idea. “Something like that can have a boomerang effect,” he said. “We need to concentrate on issues.”

Zaglifa said he wants to work on the needs of his ward and what’s best for the city. “The needs of Charles Town citizens come first,” he said. “I will continue to research those needs. The huge voter turnout was a win/win. It sends a message to council. We have to hit the ground running. It’s an exciting time.”

Paonessa said focused on running a positive campaign. “I stay out of the fray,” she said. “We all have to roll up our sleeves now and get to work. I was excited and thrilled by the turnout. It’s energizing to see the community so engaged.”

Of the attack letter and other negative campaign tactics, Trainor said: “Politics is politics. You just have to roll with those things. I’m excited to start to work and move the city forward. My main goal right now is transparency. Update the website so residents can see the [information] packages council members receive at each meeting.”  

 

According to the unofficial tallies, Tolbert won with 317 to Reinhart’s 242; Clark got 202 to Zaglifa’ 354; Clendening had 234 while Paonessa had 344; and Trainor finished with 315 to Veler’s 225.