By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON – A few months ago, Mayor Gerald Brown wondered if anyone else would run for his position.
Voters now have three choices for Mayor during the Aug. 2 primary election.
Two of the candidates – incumbent Brown and City Clerk Kyle Stack – were uncertain of their plans. Brown indicated he would not seek reelection after a decade in office; Stack, anticipating retirement from the position she’s held for 26 years, didn’t know if she would be eligible for her pension if elected mayor.
Last month, Stack’s petition to the state Municipal Employees’ Retirement System board was approved, allowing her to retire as clerk and receive her anticipated pension while remaining eligible to serve as mayor. Previously, the MERS board ruled that Stack would have to wait two years before running for office in order to be ineligible for her pension. A waiver was approved by MERS on May 11.
Brown, whose decade as mayor capped a lengthy career as a police officer and time on the Trenton Public Schools Board of Education, said his decision to seek another term was based on Stack’s uncertainty and the support and encouragement he received from colleagues, residents and family.
“Once upon a time I thought I wouldn’t run,” Brown said. He announced in February his plans to withdraw from contention, and thought that qualified candidates would emerge from the community. Over the next two months, Stack was the only candidate to toss a hat in the ring, and the potential pension issue gave Brown second thoughts.
“I didn’t know if there was another candidate out there,” said Brown. “During that two-month period, a lot of people asked me to reconsider. I was encouraged and urged, and it helped me get back into the idea of running.”
Brown and Stack are joined by a third candidate, Trenton business owner Steven McNeeley. The two candidates receiving the most votes will advance to the November general election on the non-partison ballot.
The office of mayor will be the city’s only contested position iduring the primary election. Assessor John Dahlquist and Treasurer Michael McCullogh will run unopposed, as will Deputy Clerk Trish Gearhart in her bid to replace Stack as City Clerk.
Three city council seats expire this year. Incumbents Dan Gillespie, William LeFevre and MaryEllen McLeod will each seek re-election, and challenger Robert Howey will try to unseat one of those council members in November.
Stack and Brown have expressed admiration for each other’s service. Stack said in April that her decision to run may have been inspired by Brown’s tentative retirement, but also that she was prepared to offer a new perspective to the position.
“It’s time to let somebody else with fresh ideas take over,” Stack said. “I’m not ready to give up on working for the city. I just want to do it in some other capacity.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)