Turnout low for Follansbee primary

FOLLANSBEE – Turnout for Follansbee’s primary election Tuesday was very low, perhaps because no race would be decided, with candidates for mayor, police chief and two council seats advancing to the city’s June 11 general election.

Both winners and losers in the election said they anticipate more turnout then but were thankful to those who supported them Tuesday.

In the mayor’s race, incumbent David Velegol Jr. received 194 votes, while challenger Ben Arthurs received 57. In the police chief race, incumbent John Schwertfeger received 196 votes, while challenger Paul Arthurs received 63.

Whatever the outcome of the general election, seats representing the city’s 1st and 2nd wards will have new occupants as Councilmen Jim Miller and Tom DiBattista chose not to seek re-election.

In the 2nd Ward race, David Secrist received 36 votes and Helen “Honey” Hedmond received 31. In the 1st Ward race, Vito “Skip” Cutrone received 43 votes, while Tom McMillan received 4.

All totals are unofficial until ballots are canvassed at 5:30 p.m. Monday in council chambers of the City Building.

Just 254 ballots were cast in the city, which has about 2,100 registered voters. While the cold weather also may have been a factor, awareness shouldn’t have been an issue. City staff on Monday used an automated calling system to remind residents of the election and hours and locations for polling sites.

Whatever the reason for the low turnout, some candidates said they will encourage greater participation in the general election.

“Hopefully more people will turn out for the general election. That’s one of my goals, if elected, to get people in my ward more involved,” said Cutrone.

“I want to thank everyone who voted for me,” he added.

McMillan couldn’t be reached for comment.

Secrist and Hedmond said they will be busy campaigning in the next two months.

Secrist said, “Round 2 starts now. I plan to go to every house in the 2nd Ward. I want to thank everybody who turned out to vote. We’ll be doing it again June 11.”

Hedmond said, “I’m going to campaign very hard for the general election. In anything I do, I give 120 percent.”

Velegol, who is seeking a second term as the city’s mayor, said, “That’s only Round 1. We’ve still got Round 2 to go, but I really appreciate the support.”

His opponent, Ben Arthurs, said, “I will start campaigning hard this month and in May.”

A student at Wheeling Jesuit University, Arthurs said he decided to run for mayor because he disagrees with some decisions made by city officials and can offer a fresh perspective.

Schwertfeger, who is nearing his 14th year as police officer, said in that time he has emphasized teamwork in the city’s police department.

“We’ve got a good group of officers that has been trying to stay on top of this drug problem and the issues associated with it,” he said, adding working all of the department’s three shifts has kept him abreast of matters before his department.

“I wouldn’t tell my guys to do anything I wouldn’t do,” he said.

Paul Arthurs, who is Ben Arthurs’ father, said he expected the low turnout but will be going door to door in the months ahead and plans to communicate regularly with the public if elected.

“Hopefully in June we can get more people out to vote. If you want to change things, you have to get out and vote,” he said.

Those holding the city’s council at large and 3rd, 4th and 5th Ward seats and the offices of city clerk and city attorney were unchallenged.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com)