Liberty Township voters, looking for a change, cast a majority of their votes for Bryan Newell to replace Trustee Melanie Leneghan and for Rick Karr to replace Fiscal Officer Nancy Denutte during Tuesday’s general election.
Leneghan, the two-term incumbent, did not file with the Delaware County Board of Elections (BOE) to run for re-election.
According to the BOE, Newell received 3,173 (50.82%) votes out of the 6,244 total votes cast in the trustees race at the 27 precincts of Liberty Township.
Newell said in a phone interview Tuesday evening that “the whole thing hadn’t really sunk in yet.”
“There are so many people to thank,” he said. “So many people volunteered their time, especially the firefighters who volunteered to come out and help on their days off.”
Newell will take his seat on the Liberty Township Board of Trustees alongside trustees Shyra Eichhorn and Michael Gemperline on Jan. 1, 2020.
During his campaign, Newell claimed he was running on two issues that plagued the township: the recent jeopardy the fire department had been pushed into, and the alienation of the residents by two of the trustees currently on the board.
“I am running to secure the safety and long-term vibrancy of this community, return control of the township to its residents, and end the personal politics,” he said previously. “It’s time to stop the drama and move forward. We need to get back to the business of securing this community’s future.”
Newell also promised to present a resolution limiting the board’s power to defund the township’s fire department during his time knocking on doors.
“I will encourage open and transparent discussions of the chief’s recommendations amongst the board and the residents,” he said.
But Newell, while campaigning for trustee, said he was hit with a smear campaign by the opposition.
“I’m probably the first township candidate to have a Super PAC (Political Action Committee) come after me,” he said.
By the end of the phone conversation, Newell said he was ready to get to work for Liberty Township.
Placing second to Newell in the election was Melanie Farkas, also a newcomer. She received 2,051 (32.85%) out of the 6,244 total votes cast.
“I was really proud of the campaign I ran,” she said. “It was amazing to me to meet so many residents, and I’m grateful for all the support.”
Like Newell, Farkas said she entered as a candidate because as the mother of two small children, she could no longer stand by and watch elected officials put the community at risk.
The third candidate in the race for trustee, Scott Donaldson, received the remainder of the 1,020 (16.34%) votes cast Tuesday.
After a long night of watching the returns, Donaldson was out with his daughter and her stuffed Pooh Bear Wednesday morning collecting his campaign signs from the various places around the township.
“A lot of people will talk about getting involved,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for Farkas and Newell for putting themselves out there.”
Donaldson said he hopes that in the future, under the new board, things will get done in the township.
Also victorious in the township Tuesday was Karr, who received 4,277 (71.55%) of the 5,978 votes cast in the 27 precincts for the position of fiscal officer.
“I just want to thank everyone in Liberty Township and Powell for the support,” he said. “I think this is a real turning point for the community from the standpoint that the people want a professional and outstanding fire department protecting their safety.
“It’s also a signal that the community wants Liberty Township to work together with Powell for the common good and safety of the whole community,” he added.
Karr said he ran for fiscal officer after attending the trustees meetings on and off over the years, but when talk began of changing the fire-based EMS model, his attendance became more regular.
“At these meetings, Trustee Leneghan’s leadership, the complete disregard for our residents’ basic right to free speech and the desire to silence any dissenting opinion and watching the current fiscal officer do nothing to advise the trustees on the financial impacts, I have been both embarrassed and outraged,” he said previously.
Karr believed it to be vital to both the township and the city of Powell to keep local control of the fire-based EMS in order to provide the best service to the residents. “I believe with the right planning, we can have the most efficient fire-based EMS model to support the needs of Liberty and Powell.”
Denutte received 1,701 (28.45%) votes in her bid for re-election.
When contacted for comment on the election, Denutte said she didn’t have one, “So, no comment.”
The Delaware County Board of Elections will count provisional ballot on Nov. 25 and certify the count Nov. 26.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.