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Change Wasn’t What Many Voters Envisioned

“I think people are ready to try something different,” Glenn Elliott said in May 2016, just after winning office as mayor of Wheeling.

Many city residents don’t appear to have been quite ready for the kind of “different” Elliott had in mind.

Last week’s municipal election was far from a vote of confidence in the strategy Elliott and the current City Council have pursued for nearly four years.

Elliott faced two challengers, Chris Hamm and Tony Domenick, who have voiced many complaints about plans by the current administration. The mayor prevailed — barely.

He will begin his second term having received support from fewer than half the voters. His 3,647 votes (unofficial returns) were 49.27% of the total. Given the nature of the election — a referendum on the Elliott administration — he might well have lost a two-person race. As it was, Hamm, with 3,168 votes, and Domenick, with 571, split the “anti” bloc of voters (there were 16 write-in votes for others).

Results from city council races cannot have been any more reassuring to the mayor and his supporters. Vice Mayor Chad Thalman was able to hold onto his 1st Ward council seat, but just barely, in a race against John Bishop. Thalman scraped up 51.89% of the votes.

Incumbent 5th Ward Councilman Ty Thorngate fared even worse, winning re-election with just 46.13% of the votes in a four-person race.

Second Ward Councilman Ken Imer wasn’t even that lucky. He was defeated soundly in a five-person race. The winner, Ben Seidler, garnered 274 votes. Imer came in third, with 123 votes.

Only one member of council, the 6th Ward’s David Palmer, ran unopposed for re-election.

Two incumbents, Melinda Koslik of the 3rd Ward and Wendy Scatterday of the 4th Ward, chose not to run for re-election. Their seats will be taken over by Rosemary Ketchum (3rd Ward) and Jerry Sklavounakis (4th).

That means half the city council taking office July 1 will be new. Elliott said last week he will talk with the new members to “find out their visions for the city and try to forge a path forward.”

Too many people voted against the mayor and incumbent council members for them to stay on the path they have been walking.

It is to be hoped the mayor and members of council recognize that — but I wonder if they do. Elliott commented a few days ago that the election “was not under normal circumstances … it certainly was a little harder to campaign and get my message across like I did in 2016.”

But Elliott’s squeak-by win was not because voters didn’t understand his message. They have had nearly four years to learn where the mayor and some members of council stand — and that’s not the kind of change many Wheeling residents wanted.

Higher taxes — adopted by council, not voters — have not been appealing. Neither have costly proposals that would benefit already well-off business people. And the idea of the city acquiring most of the old Ohio Valley Medical Center hasn’t been a slam dunk, either.

In 2016, Wheeling voters said loudly and clearly that they wanted change. Elliott and council should note that many of them said the same thing last Tuesday.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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