Posted Saturday, November 6, 2021
Legend has it, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney told the tale. As chief executive of Bain Capital Management, Romney held a board meeting to inquire why a dog food company in which Bain had invested was performing poorly. Executives offered alternative excuses. Then one at the table hit the nail on the head. “The dogs don’t like the food,” the analyst told Mitt. Remember that, Enfield.
First, let’s settle one thing. Stephanie Redmond will be our Town’s Supervisor these next two years. Tuesday’s election settled the issue. We deserve Ms. Redmond our respect for the office she’ll hold and for her electoral accomplishment, such as it was, given the circumstances.
But Enfield remains a Town divided. The November election proved that as well. So this is not a time to gloat, to be cocky, or to stretch one’s victory into some sort of governing mandate. A mandate to impose and extend one’s rule as head of our Town’s government this election was not. Let me explain.
A close look at the numbers confirms my logic. 693 Enfield residents voted either on Election Day or through early voting. (At this writing, absentee ballots have yet to be counted.) Stephanie Redmond was the only candidate for Supervisor listed on our ballot. Cortney Bailey, though a declared candidate since the spring, failed to be listed for lack of one little paper she failed to sign back in May. Many Enfield voters did not know of Cortney’s candidacy until they were told. I tried to inform them. But I could not reach everyone in time. Despite our lack of information, 205 of us—including me—took the effort to write in Cortney’s name. We sought change. We demanded it.
Another 146 of us, frankly, would have preferred that giant oak tree outside our door to be the Supervisor rather than Stephanie Redmond. They left the column for Supervisor blank. They may have voted for other offices, but not for hers. I talked to several of those non-participants after they’d voted on Election Day. They didn’t know Cortney was running. Had they known, they might have supported her. That’s why I say, quite assuredly, that a ballot without choices is a ballot without meaning.
Stephanie Redmond continues as our Town’s titular head with only minority support. Of those trooping to the polls, Supervisor Redmond earned just 49.4 per cent of the same-day or early machine vote. (Ms. Bailey, to the extent her candidacy was known, earned 29.6%, the “oak tree” 21.1%). Ignoring the oak tree, and keeping limited voter knowledge in mind, Cortney Bailey received nearly 60 per cent of the support that Ms. Redmond did. And Redmond held the Democratic nomination by default. There’d been no primary.
Of those who won in Tuesday’s election, Stephanie Redmond was Enfield’s poorest performer. In no other instance did write-ins or non-participation overwhelm a listed candidate. For Town Councilperson, Jude Lemke garnered 75.2 per cent among those coming to the polls; Cassandra Hinkle, 54.7 per cent; and James Ricks, 57.3 per cent in his separate election to finish out an unexpired term. Yes, for Hinkle and Ricks, the results were underwhelming. Yet those two still improved over Stephanie.
Faring far better than our appointed—and now, elected—Supervisor, were Town Clerk Mary Cornell, securing 86 per cent voter endorsement; Highway Superintendent “Buddy” Rollins, 85 per cent; and Town Justice Betty Poole, at a whopping 89.3 per cent. Enfield voters like them all. They affirmed that admiration through their votes.
So don’t blame apathy. And don’t blame laziness. Enfield takes its democracy seriously. Indeed, seriously enough to flip the ballot over.
In those back-of-the-ballot Enfield referenda, though each was poorly publicized, the three Board-submitted initiatives that would have extended future terms for Town elected offices, including Supervisor, each lost handily. Yet in each, voter participation proved amazing. Depending on the referendum you choose, only 41 or 42 voters, a mere six per cent, chose to ignore those propositions. Whether for or against the changes, Enfield’s electorate proved their passion in exercising their franchise. And I note that the referendum that lost worst was that for a four-year Supervisor’s term. It got support from only one voter in three.
No, the lack of participation—the lack of an incumbent’s affirmation—in Tuesday’s election for Enfield Supervisor was no fluke. And I may be the only person in our Town’s Government with the ba—, err, moxie to say what I’ll say at this moment. This was a vote of No Confidence in Stephanie Redmond as our Supervisor. Or maybe it was a vote of No Confidence in Enfield Town Government overall.
We, my Town Board colleagues, must do better. We must listen to our citizens. We must stop fighting among ourselves. We must stop fighting with those outside our Board with whom we disagree. We must govern as a team.
Put plainly, as Mitt Romney learned the hard way, the “dogs” don’t like the food put before them. Like Mitt, we in this Town also have some hard lessons to learn.