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Newton takes Rockville mayor race

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Published on: Thursday, November 07, 2013

By Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE – Two-term City Councilwoman Bridget Newton will be the next mayor of Rockville after defeating Mark Pierzchala, another two-term councilmember, in Tuesday night’s election.

Newton won with 3,508 votes, or 53 percent, compared to 3,086 votes, or 47 percent, for Pierzchala. Newton’s total surpasses the 3,264 votes outgoing Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio received when she won her second term in 2011. According to the city, election results will not be official until Nov. 12.

“I am numb, just so numb from the day, the expenditure of energy,” Newton said after she found out the result at her election party. “I just really want to bring the city back together. We need it and deserve it. We are so much better than all of this infighting and that is where I am going to go. I am going to work my tail off to bring the city back to where it really represents the citizens and have a council that is all together; not necessarily one view but all together respectful of each other.”

 In the end, only 16.6 percent of registered voters in the city turned out for the election, slightly less than the 16.9 percent voter turnout in the 2011 election. A total of 6,685 votes were cast this year, compared to 6,240 in the previous election.

Despite the victory, Newton acknowledged she will face challenges when she takes over the reins as mayor. The Team Rockville slate, which Pierzchala led, may have lost the mayoral election, but all four of its council candidates—Julie Palakovich Carr, Beryl Feinberg, Tom Moore and Virginia Onley—were elected. Newton said she hopes there will not be too many 4-1 votes and the council will be collaborative.

“It does present challenges but I think it also presents opportunities and that is what I look forward to, the opportunities,” Newton said. “I think that the divergent ideas and opinions will be really good as we come together and focus on what is important in terms of growing Rockville and moving forward.”  

Pierzchala said the results did not surprise him.

“It was always going to be a close race. I was disappointed, but also relieved that it was over,” Pierzchala said. “I am grateful for the four years that the city gave me in office. I was able to accomplish a lot over those four years.”

As for his slate teammates, Pierzchala said he is confident they will be willing to work with Newton.

 “Newton can be a successful mayor by incorporating the councilmember talents, knowledge and expertise right from the beginning,” Pierzchala said. “I think it is important to lay out a legislative agenda right at the start; this is more substantial than the visioning process the body goes through every two years. There needs to be a calm conversation about growth. Mayor Newton will help herself immensely if she also recognizes the role of the city staff versus the policy making body and works with the city staff better than she has in the past.”

In the short term, Pierzchala said he will not be involved with city government while he gets his business back in order and evaluates his future.

Newton said she  appreciates Pierzchala’s service to the city. Pierzchala worked hard and brought many ideas forward, she said, and she wishes him the best in the future.

Outgoing Councilman John Hall, who has been a Newton supporter, said he was pleased with the result. Both candidates are hard workers, he said, but Newton’s vision, which is to preserve Rockville’s neighborhoods and adequate public facilities ordinance while getting people to work together civilly, won voters over.

Now, Hall said, Newton has a chance to implement her vision.

“I know that Bridget is the kind of person who as mayor will be reaching out to the rest of the council members even though they were on an opposing slate,” Hall said. “I think it is up to the council to work together. She is the kind of person who will extend her hand and make that happen.”

Hall also said he wants to thank Pierzchala for his service and for running a good campaign.

“The man served the city for four years as a council member in addition to his time as a community association president, and he has been active in a lot of parts of the city,” Hall said. “I hope that he will continue to be. I thank him for running and presenting a contrasting vision.”

In addition to the mayor and council race, voters also had the opportunity to vote on three advisory referendum questions.

More than 53 percent of voters were in favor of increasing the term for mayor and council members from two years to four years. However, more than 53 percent of voters were against moving city elections to even years to coincide with the presidential election.

Finally, 50.5 percent of voters were against increasing the membership of the council to six council members.

Steven VanGrack, who chaired the Charter Review Commission that presented the referendum questions to the mayor and council, said he was pleased with the results.

“The most significant change (the commission) recommended is the one voters thought made the most sense,” VanGrack said. “Changing the years of service is important, and I am optimistic the mayor and council will move forward with it.”

VanGrack said he was not surprised by any of the results.

“I think most voters did not get a lot of discussion about these questions before the election,” VanGrack said. “When they went to vote, it was probably a lot of gut reactions.”

The new mayor and council will take their oaths of office on Nov. 17 at F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville’s Civic Center Park.

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