Election Day in Gambier on Tuesday, Nov. 5, was in a word, uneventful: In almost every election for the Village of Gambier and College Township positions, the candidates were running unopposed.
With only a few competitive elections, the most notable aspect of the night was the low voter turnout. According to the Knox County Board of Elections’ unofficial results, the countywide turnout was 25 percent. In last year’s election, which included many national and statewide seats, 54 percent of voters came out to the polls. In 2017—which, like this year, was exclusively for local elections—turnout was 30 percent.
In Gambier specifically, which is divided into three precincts, the total turnout was 10.35 percent. Out of 2,423 registered voters in Gambier, only 251 decided to cast a ballot yesterday. Gambier suffered the lowest voter turnout of all the townships and villages in Knox County by a wide margin. Most other precincts in the county saw turnouts around the county average.
The Knox County Board of Elections released the unofficial results late Tuesday night after all 53 precincts reported. Leeman Kessler ’04 won in his uncontested bid for Mayor of Gambier, earning 210 votes. He will replace outgoing Mayor Kachen Kimmell. The election for Village Council was marginally more competitive: In a three-way race for two open seats, Barbara Kakaris and Morgan Giles upset the incumbent, Harold Ballard. They received 165 and 127 votes, respectively, compared to Ballard’s 114. Since Kessler will step down from his seat on Village Council to serve as mayor, Ballard will have another chance to vie for the seat in a special election to fill Kessler’s spot.
For the College Township positions, which encompasses the College and downtown Gambier, Douglas McLarnan won the position of Township Trustee in an uncontested election, receiving 23 votes, and Martha Rambo won her uncontested bid for Township Fiscal Officer with 22 votes. Township residents also voted on a tax levy for the College Township Fire Department, with 27 residents voting for the levy and two voting against it.
With this year’s results, Mount Vernon has elected its first new mayor in over two decades. After serving for six terms, Mount Vernon Mayor Richard K. Mavis (D) did not seek reelection. In the bid to replace Mavis, it was Matt Starr (R), a Mount Vernon businessman and civic leader, who shellacked Wayne Link by a vote tally of 2,028 to 379.
In her bid for the City Council 3rd Ward seat, the only contested council seat on the ballot for Mount Vernon residents, Andrea White (D), visiting assistant professor of psychology, lost to Tammy Woods (R), 310 votes to 556. Voters also approved both school levies that were on ballots in Knox County: one for Mount Vernon City Schools and another for East Knox Local Schools.
Back in Gambier, Mayor-elect Kessler looked ahead to his term. Kessler, in a statement he shared with the Collegian, called his victory an honor, and expressed gratitude for his wife and children and as well as outgoing Mayor Kachen Kimmell.
“Gambier is a village like no other, set apart both physically and, at times, mentally, but we are inextricably bound not only to each other but to the wider community around us,” he wrote, “and as we look to our future, we ignore our neighbors at our own peril. One of the occupational hazards of being both a missionary kid and clergy spouse is constantly having to consider ‘who is my neighbor?’ And I’ve found over the years that the wider my definition, the more satisfying the world is.”
Kessler, a Kenyon alum, considers his time in Gambier as an adult an education in its own right. He wrote that he looks forward to the challenges he will face as mayor, which will include navigating Gambier-College relations and development.