Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Florence City Council: One newcomer, five incumbents win seats

Longtime city clerk Betsy Conrad ousts Dale Stephens

By Brenna R. Kelly
Enquirer staff writer

FLORENCE - There will be one new - but familiar - face on Florence City Council next year.

Betsy Conrad, who sat at city council meetings for 22 years as city clerk, will now sit as a council member.

One familiar face will be leaving council. Incumbent Dale Stephens, the longest consecutively-serving councilman, was defeated in Tuesday's election.

With 3,945 votes, Conrad, 62, was the fourth-highest vote getter in the race for six seats

Conrad admitted she was surprised by her victory, "inasmuch as I didn't even put up one sign," she said.

But because Conrad served as city clerk and human resources director for so long, she knew she had name recognition among Florence residents.

"I really appreciate their confidence," she said. "It's an awesome responsibility, and I am humbled that people put their trust in me."

For Stephens, leaving council after eight years will be hard.

"It'll be an adjustment," he said. "Every Tuesday night, you know where you're going to be."

Stephens, 73, a retired Cincinnati Bell service manager, missed a seat by just 117 votes.

"I just got beat," said Stephens. "I'll sleep on it, and maybe I'll go to the courthouse and see what I got in each of the precincts."

In a low-key race, Stephens said he campaigned, using yard signs and sending out 4,000 mailers.

"And I got smacked."

Incumbent Julie Metzger got the highest number of votes - 6,043 - nearly 2,000 more than the second-place candidate, incumbent David Osborne.

"I am shocked. I can't even explain how shocked," said Metzger, 37, who said she didn't campaign particularly hard in Florence. "I was at all the events, I have one of the best attendance records on council. I really don't know, but it's exciting."

She attributed her name recognition to owning a business in the city. Metzger, who is an optometrist, interacts with residents every day, she said.

Metzger said though one of the incumbents would be leaving, the council would embrace any newcomers.

"We were a good team," she said, "so that's sort of sad."

Osborne will continue as the councilman who has served the most total years. Osborne, 64, who works as a Boone County code inspector, has been on council for 25 of the last 28 years. He received the second-highest number of votes with 4,204.

"I am very, very flattered that I did finish second," Osborne said. The results show that "people are pretty well satisfied with the way things are going."

He said he campaigned by talking to residents and putting up signs but noted that in Florence, "you have to campaign every day you are in office."

Ted Bushelman, 68, who has been on council for four years, will also get another term. And incumbents Mel Carroll and Melodee Merrell will return.

Challenger Larry Brown missed a seat on council by just 43 votes. Brown served on council in 1999 and 2000.

Two challengers got the lowest number of votes. Ritsel T. Sparks, got 2,378 votes while Curt Bessette, 45, a retired Toys R Us executive, received 2,310 votes.

Mayor Diane Whalen, who was not up for election, said the results show that residents are mostly satisfied with the direction the city is going.

Whalen said she wasn't sure why all the incumbents were re-elected.

"When you have that many people running, it's hard to know what the deciding factors might be," Whalen said. "Betsy is very well-known."


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