Perryville Voters Re-Elect Jim Eberhardt as Mayor, Reject MAD Dawson
In a much larger than usual voter turnout Tuesday, Perryville voters re-elected James Eberhardt as mayor, repudiating newcomer town Commissioner Michael A. Dawson and his outspoken attacks on town officials and employees.
After the polls closed at 7 p.m., the elections board tallied the votes of 495 residents, with Eberhardt winning 320 votes to Dawson’s 175. In past town elections, turnout often tallied no more than 10 percent of an estimated 2,000 eligible voters. But this time, interest in the election ran high among local residents, prompting multiple letters to local newspapers supporting Eberhardt and a “Friends of Jim Eberhardt” group on Facebook.
Eberhardt, who is a retired chief financial officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, won his fifth term as mayor of Cecil County’s second-largest town just a week after the town council adopted an $8.8 million budget that cut spending and reduced the local property tax rate. The town also recently cut the ribbon on a new town pier that is a cornerstone of the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway and nature trail, providing public water access to the river as part of a federally-supported historic and environmental initiative.
Dawson, known locally as MAD Dawson to differentiate him from Michael W. Dawson—a longtime local resident and former candidate for state Delegate—had challenged the pier project in his less than a year term on the town council. He thought it cost too much, although most of the costs are covered by state and federal grants, and objected that a public pier competed with private marina business interests in the area.
Dawson, a recent transplant from Prince George’s County where he worked as a police officer, recently ran for Cecil County Executive in the Republican primary but lost overwhelmingly to County Commissioner Tari Moore in a crowded, seven-candidate field. He listed his occupation as “politician” on his Facebook page and previously ran unsuccessfully in a GOP primary for county commissioner in 2010.
Dawson is a loyal member of the “Smipkin” political organization, led by Del. Michael Smigiel and Sen. E.J. Pipkin, both R-36th Dist, and he won a seat on the county’s Republican Central Committee as part of the Smipkins candidate “slate.”
After winning a seat on the Perryville town council by one vote last year, Dawson quickly became a controversial figure at town meetings, accusing town officials and employees of incompetence or even ‘corruption’ without providing substantiation of his allegations.
He also got into a recent flap with the Greater Perryville Chamber of Commerce over its sponsorship of the annual town parade and said other non-profit groups should be given the chance to run the event.
Eberhardt cited his long record of service to the town, including initiating improvements to local facilities and water and sewer infrastructure, while still repeatedly cutting tax rates for town residents.
[UPDATE: Commenting on his victory, Eberhardt told Cecil Times, "I'm very happy with the turnout; I believe it was a record turnout" of town voters. He said he felt that voters were given "a choice between two distinct styles of leadership and they clearly made their choice."
[Eberhardt said he looked forward to promoting economic development initiatives in his new term and said the town was "well positioned" to move the economy and business climate of the town forward.]
In Tuesday’s election, voters also selected two town commissioners. Incumbent Barbara Brown was re-elected without opposition while Raymond A. Ryan III ran successfully for the seat formerly held by Alan Fox, who chose not to run again.