By Henri Gendreau
The death of James P. Kousoulas, 80, on Tuesday, Oct. 15 turned a contested race for the College Township Board of Trustees into an uncontested one.
Kousoulas’ death leaves Barry Bowden, 60, and Charles “Chuck” Woolison, 80, the only candidates for the two spots up for election on the three-person board. Bowden said the trustees would appoint him to Kousoulas’ seat at a swearing-in ceremony Thursday, Oct. 31, making the election moot.
Although Kousoulas’ name will still appear on the ballot, “any votes for him will be taken out of tabulation,” Knox County Board of Elections Director Kim Horn said, adding that notices will be posted at election sites informing voters of this. Kousoulas served in the military for 21 years and taught criminology-related courses at Indiana University, according to his obituary in the Mount Vernon News.
This will be Woolison’s first shot at elected office. He worked at the Gambier post office for 25 years and served as postmaster for 13 of those.
Bowden, a former township trustee, was a firefighter for 30 years with the Mount Vernon Fire Department and the College Township Fire Department. The latter’s fate is the greatest issue facing the trustees.
The College Township department has been beset by a lack of experienced volunteers and insufficient finances to pay for professional staffers. Negotiations to partner with the Mount Vernon department were put on hold earlier this year after its chief, Christopher Menapace, left for a position in Whitehall, a suburb of Columbus. The trustees are now focusing on community outreach efforts to explore an alternative solution.
“My big concern is the safety of the whole area, the township, the Village,” said Woolison, who is a distant cousin of Fire Chief Bill Smith. “I don’t visualize anything that could keep us from having to go to Mount Vernon right now.”
“I think the community still wants our fire department running through the trustees,” Woolison added. “They don’t want us to go through Mount Vernon and I don’t either.”
“In spite of all the issues, I want [voters] to know that they still have very good fire/EMT coverage,” Bowden said. “We want to make sure that that’s always the case.”
Memorial contributions can be made in Kousoulas’ name at the fire department.