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Candidates ready for council elections

By J.R. Williams - jrwilliams@nvdaily.com

Both Middletown and Stephens City will hold elections for mayor and three town council members Tuesday, and plenty of candidates have stepped forward.

The race is particularly open in Middletown.

Two names will appear on the ballot for Town Council: John W. Blaisdell Jr., a former longtime councilman, and Shenandoah University graduate student Charles H. "Charlie" Harbaugh IV.

At least two people are campaigning for write-in votes in that race -- current Vice Mayor Gerald D. Sinclair and Donna M. Gum, who was ousted from her job as town treasurer by a council vote in October.

Current council members Martha H. "Marty" Ingram and Patrick "Joe" Hickman have said they will step down as their terms expire in June.

Marshall J. "Mark" Brown stands unopposed for re-election as mayor. He said in an interview this week that the town needs to work on finding sustainable revenue sources in a down economy.

He cited a boundary adjustment across Interstate 81 as a "hope on the horizon" to help accomplish that goal. He stressed technology upgrades, less dependence on Winchester for water, and town promotion.

"We've got to start promoting Middletown," Brown said. "Right now it's some place people find on their way through."

A sign posted at the Middletown Post Office advertises Town Councilman Carl Bernhards as a write-in candidate for mayor, though Bernhards said this week he didn't know who posted it. His term as a councilman does not expire until 2012.

While he's not actively campaigning for mayor, Bernhards said he wouldn't necessarily turn down the position.

Gum, a former town clerk and treasurer, has a flier up at the post office as well. Gum was removed from her job as treasurer in October by the council, although a specific reason for her ouster was never publicly disclosed.

Gum has since been critical of the current mayor and council. She said this week she brings lifelong residency and nine years of experience as a town official to the table.

"This wasn't something that was a fly-by-night decision," she said. "The people need a voice."

Vice Mayor Sinclair's term on the Town Council expires this year. He said Tuesday while he missed the March filing deadline to appear on the ballot, he'll lobby for write-in votes at the polling place -- the Middletown Town Office -- on Election Day.

Harbaugh, a Shenandoah MBA student, filed early for one of the open council seats. He has organized events for the town's Fourth of July celebrations and has said he would like to bring more positive events to Middletown.

"I think we've got a great product," he said, citing the popular annual Civil War re-enactment and other events. "We've got a place that people like and we need to focus on that."

Harbaugh is due in court in July on a driving while intoxicated charge. On March 12, he said, his car got stuck on the side of the road next to a friend's house, where he waited for someone to pull him out. He says he wasn't drinking before then.

"I'm 23 years old, I was on spring break, I realize I made a mistake. But I'm not guilty," he said. "I wasn't driving. I didn't have the keys."

True results of the election won't be known until Wednesday afternoon after the Frederick County electoral board goes through the ballots. Tuesday's results will only show a total number of write-in votes for each race.

In Stephens City, longtime Councilwoman Joy B. Shull, whose term is set to expire in 2012, is unopposed as mayor. The current mayor, Ray E. Ewing, has announced his retirement.

Incumbent Councilmen James Harter and Linden A. "Butch" Fravel, and town Planning Commission member Martha "Marty" Wadkins Dilg, are on the ballot for the three council seats. Incumbent Michael P. Grim has said he is not running for re-election.

Election Day is Tuesday.

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