Of course, the town board was always going to have four new members after all the incumbents announced they were not running for re-election.
Still, town residents now have a better idea of what direction the town will move in. All four new board members took a stance that the town board needs to foster downtown development as well as support the existing businesses in Canton.
The board will do “everything we can to make sure they have the resources they need to grow,” said Smathers.
The first and perhaps greatest challenge the newly elected aldermen will face, however, is hiring a new town manager. The current town manager, Al Matthews, is retiring at the end of the year. The new board will have to decide whether to pick up the search where the old board left off or start the process completely over.
“My fellow council members are very intelligent people,” Hamlett said. “They make good choices, and I believe that as a group, we should be very excited about together taking a step forward for Canton and choosing the best person we can.”
Smathers said he will be looking for a town manager candidate with managerial and economic development experience.
Hamlett and Smathers agreed that the four new aldermen get along and should work well together to better Canton.
“I think we all want to go forward and do big things,” Smathers, said.
But since all the aldermen are new, there are a lot of things they will need to learn.
“Since all of us are new to the board, the challenge is, for all of us, stepping into new roles as aldermen. It will be somewhat of a sharp learning curve,” Hamlett said.
The race was a nail biter with the two unelected candidates losing by 40 or 50 votes almost, showing that residents generally felt positive about all those running. Having never run for political office before, Mull was shocked to hear the news.
“I am just so thankful. I did not have any idea. I had no feel for it whatsoever,” said Mull, who spent the entire day at the polls.
Along with electing a completely new board, voters had to decide whether to stay on its traditional system, where all four aldermen ran for re-election every two years, or switch to four-year staggered terms, which means only two aldermen would run for office at a time and each would serve a four-year term.
Voters have approved a change to staggered terms 403-to-128 — which will prevent the wholesale turnover the town board as occurred this election. To get the town board on the right track for future elections, Carole Edwards and Zeb Smathers, who received the most votes, will serve four years as aldermen. Ralph Hamlett and Gail Mull will serve two before running for re-election.
Candidates elected to the Canton Board of Aldermen from now on, however, will always serve four-year terms.
Vicki Gregg, owner of Pauly’s Florist in downtown Canton, said she voted for the staggered term system because it will give the aldermen more time to accomplish their goals.
“Sometimes two years doesn’t give you the time,” said Gregg, who declined to say who she voted for.
As a business owner, Gregg said she is most concerned about economic growth in the Canton and wants town leaders to support the paper mill and work to better the downtown business district.
Robert Eggleston, 64, didn’t have a particular issue that brought him to the polls on Election Day, just a sense of duty.
“I cast my vote every time the polls open,” said Eggleston, who declined to say who he voted for as he stood a few feet from campaigning candidates. “Better not. I’ll keep that secret.”
Mike Ray: 508
Canton Town Board
(four seats available)
Carole Edwards: 365
Zeb Smathers: 362
Gail Mull: 359
Ralph Hamlett: 316
Phillip Smathers: 284
Roy Taylor: 269