Four at large seats to fill on town council

Town elections in May

Mayor will be challenged

It’s several months before the town council elections on May 6. Town residents will have plenty of choices with several incumbents vying for another term, a challenger to Mayor Chip Coleman and new faces gracing the ballot.

The referendum to hold future town council elections in odd-numbered years starting in November 2017 did pass.

However, the General Assembly must pass the Town of Culpeper Charter change. The House has done this passing HB165 97-0. It is now up to the Senate. As of January 23, the Senate had referred it to the Committee on Local Government.

Mayor Chip Coleman will seek a second term but he’ll see competition from vice mayor Mike Olinger. Olinger, who picked up his packet from the registrar’s office last week, will need to secure the required 125 signatures and complete other paperwork. Coleman has done that. Olinger, who has served for 14 years, doesn’t have anything to lose in a bid for mayor. If he is not successful in unseating Coleman, he will remain on council. If he does win, as Coleman did four years ago when he challenged then mayor Pranas Rimeikes, his seat will be filled by appointment.

Two council members Jim Risner and Dan Boring will not be seeking re-election. Risner is moving to another state and Boring undoubtedly is weary from the beating he took in local media over his hiring of Daniel Harmon-Wright years ago when he was Chief of Police. That decision proved to haunt him when Harmon-Wright was found guilty of murder in the death of Patricia Ann Cook on Feb. 9, 2012 which subsequently led to a civil lawsuit filed by her brother, John Cook, implicating Boring. The town’s insurance carrier ultimately settled that suit with Cook. While Boring does own property in Arizona, it is unlikely that he will be going there anytime soon.

Incumbents Ben Phillips and Billy Yowell are both seeking re-election. Yowell has been a fixture on council for years and Phillips would like to garner a second term. Phillips has been certified by the registrar’s office.

Other names currently circulating as possible candidates are Keith Price, Jon Russell, Tom Letts, and Hank Mulans. Price was instrumental in getting the ‘Homage’ statue put in place at Wine Street Memorial Park and currently chairs the board for the Museum of Culpeper History. Price has also been certified by the registrar’s office.

In the coming weeks, the Culpeper Times will be featuring all of the candidates who will be on the ballot.

One candidate who garnered attention for organizing All Voters Welcome, Jon Russell, has his 125 signatures and paperwork in place. Russell, through a series of public gatherings and cooperation with council, was instrumental in getting the referendum on the ballot to move town elections to November. The intent is to increase voter turnout and save taxpayers money. Elections are costly. The downside is that local issues can get lost in national elections where voters are focused on who is winning a presidency.

But, by holding the elections in odd-numbered years, town issues and election of officials will still be the focus. It would seem to be a solution satisfying both the desire to increase voter turnout, save money and keep the focus on local issues and leaders.

Russell has attended town council meetings for more than a year and was urged by several residents to make a bid for one of the at large seats.

Key dates to remember

Last day for candidates to file March 4, 2014.

Absentee Voting begins Friday March 21, 2014

Last Day to Register to Vote:
Monday April 14, 2014

Deadline to apply for a Mail Absentee Ballot:
Tuesday April 29, 2014

Last day to Vote In Person Absentee:
Saturday May 3, 2014, Office open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Elections held May 6, 2014