Merrell captures County Commissioner seat
By DUSTIN ENSINGER
For The Sunbury News
Political newcomer Gary Merrell emerged victorious Tuesday in his first ever general election race.
Merrell, the former Delaware Gazette/Sunbury News publisher, defeated Democrat John Hartman 65 percent to 35 percent based on complete but unofficial results with the Delaware County Board of Elections.
“I really don’t know how to say how much I appreciate the support of voters across the county,” he said.
Merrell will take office in January, replacing outgoing Commissioner Tommy Thompson, whom he defeated in the March Republican primary election.
Ken O’Brien, whose debates with his fellow Delaware County commissioners have drawn criticism from some, on Tuesday won a second and final term to the board.
O’Brien defeated Democratic candidate Richard Bird 66 percent to 34 percent based on complete but unofficial results compiled by the Delaware County Board of Elections.
“I want to thank my wife and family that helped so much,” O’Brien said. “I am very humbled and very thankful.” He attributed his victory to the “hard work of a lot of good people.”
Merrell said he will be the best prepared commissioner to ever take office on his first day and has been doing his homework by being a nearly constant presence at board of commissioner meetings. He has also met with each of the elected officials in the county and most of the department heads. He has also toured most of the county’s facilities.
“I’ve done about all I can to prepare myself,” he said.
With more than 30 years of business experience, Merrell believes he will bring something to the board of commissioners that has been absent in recent years. Namely, after working in the newspaper industry for years, Merrell said he will bring a “question attitude to the board.”
“All decisions will be based on what’s good for the county in the long term and the short term,” he said.
Although he has no specific agenda, he plans to focus on eliminating duplication of services in the county in an effort to save taxpayers money.
“We need to find a way to do what’s best for the county and avoid duplication of services,” he said.
His opponent, Hartman, said his defeat came down to the demographics of the county.
“The difference is that the Republicans have an overwhelming advantage in Delaware County,” he said.
“It’s going to be a long process to make Delaware County a two-party county but I think it would be in the best interest of the county to be more bipartisan.”
Despite the loss, Hartman believes that his idea of charter government reform, the issue he campaigned on, has gained some traction. He also said he plans to continue to be engaged in the community.
“I will continue to do my best to advance the causes of civic improvement and do my part to try to make Delaware County a better place to live,” he said.