By Maralisa Marra
The winners of this year’s Shinnston City Council election are W. Max Palmer representing Ward 1, Amanda Sayers in Ward 2, Pat Kovalck in Ward 3, and Julia Currey in Ward 4.
The results were scheduled to be made official on Monday evening at the City Council meeting.
With a population of nearly 2,300 residents and over half of them registered to vote—1,461 are registered to vote—the number of voters for this year’s election was low. Of those 1,461 registered voters, only 140 voted, about 9.6%.
In Ward 1, East Shinnston, a total of 35 people voted. Palmer landed 26 votes, and despite Jana-Kate Layton’s resignation, she still landed 9 votes. Ward 1, Precinct 50, has a total of 480 citizens who are registered to vote. They have the highest number of registered voters out of all four wards.
In Ward 2, downtown, only 29 residents went to the polls. It was a close race between Sayers and Ashley Dytzel. Out of the 29 votes, Sayers landed 15, only beating Dytzel by one vote. Ward 2, Precinct 51, has a total of 365 registered voters.
In Ward 3, Pleasant Hill, there was a higher turnout of 43 votes with 33 of them for Kovalck. Ward 3, Precinct 52, has the second-highest number of registered voters, 437, with the highest overall votes for this election. However, 43 voters out of 437 is less than 10% of the voting population who made it to the polls.
In Ward 4, West Shinnston, Currey racked up 24 votes while opponent Peggy Barnett pulled in nine write-ins, resulting in 33 total votes. Ward 4, Precinct 53, has 179 residents who are eligible to vote.
City Clerk Kathleen Panek said the low number of votes was “very normal, unfortunately.” She also said, “My grandparents’ generation, my parents’ generation…they voted every election because they understood how important the vote is.”
She expressed concern for those who are not voting because she said people do not realize that “what happens in City Council affects them immediately” if they live within city limits.
“If you go up the ladder, the one that is most immediately important is the City Council. They can either make the city move forward or move backward or stagnate to the point that it dies…and if you don’t have good councilmen, you can have problems in your city,” Panek said.
She said there are “too many people who cannot see beyond the front door to know how important that vote is,” especially in regard to the Ward 2 totals. Sayers won by just one vote; therefore, Panek said, “Do not think for one moment, ‘My vote doesn’t count,’ because one vote decided, so every vote is important.”
Panek also said she is looking forward to swearing in the new councilmen on July 1.
Currey, winner of Ward 4, said, “I would like to thank my neighbors who supported me in this process and for their faith in my abilities…I hope to live up to [their] expectations.”
She also said that she is “excited about all of the things that are possible in the city of Shinnston,” and she is “ready to come up with new ideas on how to achieve our common goals,” like continuing upgrades to the sewer and water treatment plants.
“I’m just excited for all the options that are on the table, and I’m ready to go to work and see how we can make these things happen,” Currey said.
She is also interested in spearheading a plan to make sure the Shinnston EMS responds to the 911 calls within the Shinnston area. She expressed concern about how the Shinnston EMS rarely takes Shinnston residents’ calls, and instead the Bridgeport EMS or surrounding cities are responding to Shinnston emergencies.
Currey said that she found out that the Shinnston EMS is mainly responsible for running routes between UHC and Ruby Memorial Hospital, but she thinks that they need to be responsible for the citizens of Shinnston first. “We have to figure out how to straighten that out,” Currey said.
Currey said she plans to address voter apathy by encouraging those who are not eligible to vote to register.
“It’s important for you to play a role in the city that you live in…your voice needs to be heard,” Currey said.
Winner of Ward 3, Kovalck said, “I just would like to thank everyone for their support. I will continue to work hard over the next four years, as I have in the past, to make Shinnston a better place.”
Kovalck plans to return Shinnston’s police force to a full staff. “I’m hoping to get the number of police officers back up to keep the patrols as good as we’ve had them for the last four years,” Kovalck said.
Kovalck said that to address voter apathy, “My plan would be to get people more involved. It’s easy to just sit back and take things as they come, but people need to get out and voice their opinions…they need to come and vote to let their voices be heard.”
He also said, “If you want to change things, you have to start with a ballot.”
“I would like to let the readers know that I’m happy to represent the third ward and work for Shinnston as a whole, but I will not be seeking reelection as mayor…someone needs to be in there with a fresh perspective…I think for now it’s best for the citizens if we appoint a new mayor out of the new council,” Kovalck said.
Neither Sayers nor Palmer responded to requests for comment.