By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON – Call it a process of elimination. Voters in Trenton have one local choice to make during the Aug. 2 primary election – which two of the three mayoral hopefuls will vie for the post in November.
The nonpartisan ballot offers incumbent Mayor Gerald Brown, City Clerk Kyle Stack, and local businessman Steven McNeeley, of which two will move forward to the November general election.
Turnout will factor into the relatively low-profile primary election. Stack’s review of city records indicated that Trenton has not had a mayoral primary since September 1985, which attracted just 10 percent of registered voters.
“And now we have one with me involved,” Stack said, curious about voter participation since the ballot does not contain state or county issues.
Off-year elections typically draw fewer voters, Stack said. The last mayor’s race in 1997 pulled in just 20 percent of the eligible ballots.
Stack’s candidacy was uncertain until May, when the state pension board approved her eligibility should she retire from the clerk’s office and begin service as mayor.
Her bid for office was partly prompted when, earlier this year, Brown indicated he would not seek re-election. Speculation on whether there would be qualified candidates rekindled Brown’s interest, by which time Stack made her decision and newcomer McNeeley joined the race.
Brown’s 10 years as mayor continued a lengthy history with the city, both as a police officer and as a member of the Trenton Public Schools Board of Education.
Back in the race, Brown said he’s interested in continuing the work he’s done so far, and to confront the critical challenges facing Trenton.
In Stack’s view, Trenton should be among the leaders of Downriver communities. She added that the current city staff is capable of taking on that role.
“We’re here for service,” she said. “Our employees are great, but there are times I think we can do better. We’ve always been the place people want to live, work and recreate, and it’s time to move forward as a leader in this community and this area.”
McNeeley, owner of McNeeley Enterprises Heating and Cooling, is a newcomer to the political scene. The Navy veteran of the Persian Gulf said the deficit is Trenton’s biggest issue.
“I just wanted a future for my children,” he said of his candidacy. “It’s time for some younger views.”
The office of mayor is Trenton’s only contested position in the primary election. Assessor John Dahlquist and Treasurer Michael McCullogh will run unopposed, as will Deputy Clerk Trish Gearhart, running to replace Stack as City Clerk.
Three council seats expire this year. Incumbents Dan Gillespie, William LeFevre and MaryEllen McLeod will each seek re-election, and challenger Robert Howey will try for one of those seats in November.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])