0
Votes

O'Reilly Wins Mayor's Seat

Smith Top Vote Getter

Michael O'Reilly leaned up against the counter of the darkened pro shop in the Herndon Centennial Golf Course club house with a cell phone attached to each ear trying to manage two separate conversations. In the next room over, a contingent of his friends, family and supporters are celebrating his mayoral victory without him.

"I'm absolutely delighted," O'Reilly said between calls Tuesday night, less than a half hour after the town election results declared him the unofficial new mayor. "We could never tell how close the race was, but as I went door to door, I was getting a lot of positive responses from the citizens about the direction the town should be going in."

The unofficial results have O'Reilly defeating fellow Town Council member Connie Hutchinson and Planning Commissioner Bill Tirrell for the mayor's slot that is being vacated by Rick Thoesen come the end of June.

THE VOTERS ALSO returned the three council incumbents, Dennis Husch, Harlon Reece and Carol Bruce. Political newcomers Ann Null and Darryl Smith were elected, as was former Councilman Steve Mitchell. In fact, Smith was the top vote getter and as such will become the vice mayor.

"I always knew Darryl Smith had a following in town. They sure showed it tonight," O'Reilly said.

Smith, for his part, was literally left speechless when the results were posted. As his family hugged and danced around, Smith stood motionless in the Herndon Community Center parking lot trying to absorb what just happened.

"I don't know. I don't know what to say," he said when asked how he feels. "I'm amazed. I love this community and I'll never forget this feeling."

Smith, a captain with the Herndon Police, was set to retire later this year. Now, with his election to Town Council, that timetable will have to be sped up. He said he'd have to talk to the director of human resources before deciding on a date. As far as being ready for his new job as vice mayor, Smith said, "I've got to [be ready]."

THE ELECTIONS, which featured three people vying for the mayor's seat and 12 seeking six council slots, saw a total of 2,053 votes cast, either in person or through absentee ballots.

Precinct chief Bill Boning said more than 700 ballots had been cast by 10:30 a.m., leading him to believe the turnout would be higher than in previous years.

"We'll probably see more than normal. My guess is because of the high number of candidates," Boning said.

Husch said he remembers the last two elections attracting about 1,100 and 1,600 voters respectively.

"The people I talked to who said they would come out to vote, showed up," Husch said, while waiting for the results. "We had 12 good candidates for council."

The election also saw a change in Herndon politics. For the first time that anyone could remember political action committees were formed. In addition, as the campaign season wore down, e-mails and letters to the editor of local newspapers turned negative.

"There were some things I was disappointed in. In some cases it began to look like big-city politics instead of small-town politics," Husch said.

Hutchinson was also surprised at the negativity that crept into some campaigns, but was generally pleased with her run.

"I'm happy with how I did. I think I did a good job," she said while waiting for the results. This was Hutchinson's first run for mayor

DAVE KIRBY said he was not disappointed with his second attempt to win a council seat. In fact, he was planning to celebrate no matter what the outcome. Election day was also his birthday.

"The weight has been lifted now that it's over," Kirby said before the results were announced. "I'm an optimist. With only three incumbents and three open seats, the more voters that turn out, the more change people want."

After the elections were posted, Ralph Beard said he was happy with his first attempt at seeking political office.

"I feel good," he said, adding he's not sure if there will be a next time. "If I do decide to do it again, I've learned a little more about campaigning.

"I'm very happy for all the winners. Or I should say, those who were successful because there are no losers."