The filing period for four municipal elections slated for the spring ended on Saturday. While any filings postmarked by Jan. 30 will have to be honored, it already appears that there could be some interesting mayoral races to look forward to.
Harpers Ferry mayor Wayne Bishop, at this point, doesn’t appear to be running for re-election. Charles Town Mayor Bob Trainor will face a challenge by a fellow council member Todd Coyle. Ranson Mayor Keith “Duke” Pierson faces two opponents who haven’t served in a public elected office before.
Given the difficulties the Postal Service has seen this year and last year, there could still be some additional candidates added to the list for all four municipalities.
A list of Bolivar’s candidates was unavailable as of press time.
However, as of Tuesday, here’s who’s running in Charles Town, Harpers Ferry and Ranson:
The mayor position and eight candidates for town council seats will be listed on the ballot when voters go to the polls June 8.
Current mayor Trainor faces a challenge from Coyle, the current council member from Ward 3. Trainor was appointed in Aug. 2019 to fill the balance of former mayor Scott Rogers’ term after Rogers resigned.
Trainor served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 31 years and worked as a civilian for the branch after retiring from military service. He has held public office in Charles Town, representing Ward 4 on the council and serving on the city’s finance committee.
Coyle is the CEO of Bushel and Peck, the local market situated on the first floor of Charles Washington Hall.
Julie Philabaum is the only candidate so far running for Coyle’s seat. Philabaum has been serving since 2019 as a member of both the city’s Tree Board and Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners. She also serves on the Charles Town Now Board and volunteers on the Promotions Committee for Charles Town Now.
Philabaum is also known for organizing yarn bombings of downtown’s trees, which solicit donations for Jefferson County Community Ministries, where she had volunteered, prior to the pandemic.
Ward 4 becomes a bit complicated. Trainor was elected to council in 2019 to serve until 2023. Rikki Twyford was appointed to serve part of Trainor’s term until this year’s election, according to state law. She could run for a two-year term to finish the term vacated by Trainor or a four-year term. She chose the four-year term. Incumbent Michael George has opted to run for the two-year term. Steve Rogers is also running for the four-year seat.
George is seeking his second term. He is an employee of the federal government. Twyford has worked for Costco for 22 years. She oversees the company’s budget department. Rogers is in the construction business. He ran against Michael George in 2017. He is a lifelong resident of Jefferson County, graduating with a business degree from Shepherd University.
Other races include incumbent Chet Hines who will face Elizabeth Ricketts for Ward 1; and incumbent Kevin Tester will run against Jeff Hynes for Ward 2.
Concerning Ward 1 candidates, Hines is a former real estate agent who retired from the federal government. He is seeking his third term on the council. Ricketts works for Americorps VISTA as a volunteer coordinator. Previously, she was manager for Abolitionist Ale Works in Charles Town.
In Ward 2, Tester was appointed to the council in June 2020 to fill a vacant seat. He has been an appointed Charles Town Utility Board member for the past two years. He serves as president of the Old Opera House. Hynes has worked for Wells Fargo Bank in a variety of positions for the past 15 years. He is currently a member of the Charles Town Board of Zoning Appeals. He is also a troop leader for Brownie troop 15074 at Page Jackson Elementary School.
Charles Town has four wards each with two representatives.
With town recorder, mayor and all five council members up for election in Harpers Ferry, current recorder Kevin Carden said it was very unusual to have only two incumbents filing to run in the June 8 election. Candidates had a deadline of Jan. 29 or, if mailing in ballots, on or before midnight Jan. 30. Each office has two-year terms.
“I was surprised I didn’t hear from all the incumbents by Jan. 29. Then we had a flurry of filings from new candidates. At one point, I was afraid we wouldn’t have enough people,” Carden said.
Carden, who has been recorder for 12 years, filed along with current council member Christian Pechuekonis.
New candidates include Greg Vaughn, running for mayor, and council candidates Chris Craig; Jim Jenkins; Laurel Drake; Zachary Morse; and Greg “Storm” DiCostanzo.
Pechuekonis is a local business man, owning a bed and breakfast establishment in Harpers Ferry.
Vaughn had been mayor in 2013 and remained in that post until 2017, losing to current mayor Wayne Bishop in 2017. Prior to serving as mayor, Vaughn served as president of the Harpers Ferry Historic Landmarks Commission, a town council member and executive director of Harpers Ferry Mainstreet.
Craig also ran for mayor in 2017. Craig was a high school teacher for 20 years. He has served as a volunteer editor and officer in various professional, nonprofit and community organizations, including the Harpers Ferry Civil War Round Table.
Jenkins currently serves on the Harpers Ferry Planning Commission. His experience includes being a public school teacher and Shepherd University adjunct instructor for more than 40 years.
Laurel Drake is secretary for the Harpers Ferry Water Commission, She has experience with the Harpers Ferry-Bolivar Historic Foundation.
Zachary Morse is the son of town office coordinator Pat Morse. His father Myles Morse ran for recorder in 2019. Morse had been studying abroad before moving back to town last year, according to Carden.
No current information was available for DiCostanzo.
In Ranson, incumbent Mayor Pierson will face two challengers, and two people will compete for a council position.
A second council spot will have incumbent Mike Anderson running for re-election without a challenger on the ballot.
In the mayoral race, Pierson, a lifelong city resident who has served on the Ranson City Council for more than 20 years, will compete against city residents Tyler Eugene Payton and Bernard Brian Parrish Sr.
Payton, a member of the Masonic Star Lodge in Charles Town, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Four years ago, Parrish, a past governor of Moose Lodge 948, a social and civic organization in Ranson, ran unsuccessfully for mayor against Pierson. During that previous contest, Parrish kept a low profile, sidestepping that year’s lone candidate forum and avoiding the media in general.
In that low-key election, which included two council contests where candidates faced no opposition, Pierson won with 126 votes after Parrish received 13 votes.
Since then, Pierson has remained an active, hands-on mayor in city affairs. He was instrumental in seeing the Charles Town Utility Board take over the Ranson sewer system to achieve greater efficiencies for the Charles Town and Ranson utility customers.
Pierson was also a central figure in working with state officials to bring the Rockwool insulation factory to the outskirts of Ranson. That factory, now scheduled to open next summer, sparked protests and lawsuits from residents opposing heavy industry development in Jefferson County.
Threats by those protesters to challenge Pierson’s re-election this year didn’t materialize in the filings that will set the names of candidates listed on the ballot.
Write-in candidate registrations are still possible until April 13.
In the contested council race for an at-large seat, incumbent Amanda Stroud, who was appointed to fill an unexpired term, vacant council spot, will face challenger Mike Baker, a resident of the Shenandoah Springs development.
Stroud, a 21-year city resident who lives on Samuel Street, was appointed to her council spot last February after Tony Grant gave up the position to become city manager.
Stroud works as a library assistant at Montgomery College in Germantown, Maryland. “I just want to continue doing what I set out to do, which is to keep Ranson on the right path,” she said. “I’m just trying to keep the regular Ranson city resident in mind when I’m at the City Council.”
Baker, 34, who works as a program manager for a military contractor in Washington, D.C., became a resident of Ranson almost a year ago. This is his first campaign for public office.
Baker said he would hope to add a perspective of newer city residents to the council. If elected to the council, he said, he would work to preserve Ranson’s small-town feel and neighborly charm, an environment that drew his family to the city from Washington to raise their five-year-old son.
“I figured the best way to do that was to lead by example and become involved and become invested in the community,” he said.
Baker said he opposes the Rockwool factory as incompatible industrial development for the city and surrounding Jefferson County. In particular, the factory shouldn’t have been built so close to North Jefferson Elementary School, he said.
The factory appears beyond stopping at this point, Baker said. But as a council member, he would help guide the city, he said, toward what he considers more appropriate development decisions in the future.
“The question is what does that open up next,” he said. “Is Ranson going to sell out our beauty and our charm for some profits? I don’t think I’d like that.
“I’d rather have the nice closer-knit, clean feel of the town that drew me here and drew a lot of people.”
In this year’s second council contest, Anderson, an incumbent Ward 3 candidate, is running for re-election without opposition from a challenger on the ballot. He is seeking a third term on the council.
Anderson first became involved in Ranson’s government as a city planning commission member. He was initially appointed to serve in an unexpired council term and then ran unopposed in two elections.
Justin Griffin and Tim Cook contributed to this report