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May 13, 2014

Positives emerge from election

DUNCAN — With due respect to Duncan native and incumbent Ward II City Councilman Mike Nelson, I thought challenger Chris Schreckengost would win their municipal race last Tuesday.

The regional manager for Enterprise Rent-a-Car, who with his family has lived here the past seven years, ran what I thought was a flawless, sophisticated, professional campaign, the likes of which we’ve not seen before in a local council race.

Schreckengost ran for the post, not against the incumbent and visited with him early to explain his motives.

He ran with passion and as a reflection of his own volunteer work and successes as president of the Duncan Youth Baseball Club. He assumed a similar commitment would produce similar results on a broader scale.

He secured initial support from his family (wife Missy and children Zack and Allie) and his business. He got immediate involvement from his friends. And without a consultant, the first-time candidate assembled a textbook comprehensive plan that touched essentially every base imaginable.

Schreckengost visited privately with city leaders to better educate himself about the community, its strengths and weaknesses. He spent time with individuals and small groups, seeking insight and ideas about issues, problems and opportunities.

He raised money, purchased and systematically placed yard signs throughout the city. He bought shirts, outdoor boards and print advertising.  And he was on social media.

He went door-to-door, shook a lot of hands, talked with whomever would listen, showed up wherever he could find a crowd, hosted a meet-and-greet, knowledgably took part in a candidate public forum and answered thoughtfully questions posed by The Banner.

Schreckengost attended council meetings, befriended leaders of the Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation (DAEDF), texted voting reminders on Election Day and on the basis of his tireless commitment, seemed headed to a seat on the council.

It was a good, solid, thorough plan, one personified by energy and void of serious gaps. There was little more he could have done.

Buoyed by a sales tax renewal issue, also on the ballot, nearly 3,000 of the city’s 13,279 eligible voters made a choice. He got 953 votes and finished second to Nelson, whose low key efforts, still generated enough votes, 1,399, to defeat Schreckengost and Bill Schneekloth, the third man in the race, who gathered 607 votes. That’s more than double the voter turnout three years ago when Nelson first won.

Veteran election watchers explained it this way.

  Folks here don’t like change. He attacked and threatened the system. He was an outsider, from New York of all places, here only seven years. He was a DAEDF mouthpiece. His name seemed foreign, is hard to pronounce and was listed third on the ballot. He was bald.  He seemed too aggressive to some, too smooth for others.  He lost when the third candidate emerged, sapping his anti-establishment backing. He picked the wrong race and the wrong opponent.

Further, they said, the comparison was simply too much to overcome.

Nelson grew up here and has been a respected dentist for years. His dad, Earl, and brother, Marlin, ran a popular donut shop for more than four decades. His children, Megan, Mendy and Garrett, were active and involved as youngsters. His son will likely return as a second generation dentist.

He ran as the incumbent, a man of honesty and integrity, one self-acclaimed as a “voice” of the people, one who understood the role and was part of a close-knit council team thought to be making a difference.

He said, effectively, his life was his campaign.

He always favored a low profile approach, but admitted as Election Day neared, he pulled back even more. He solicited no contributions, purchased no signs, didn’t go door-to-door, used no social media and purchased only a smattering of newspaper advertising.

He did host a meet-and-greet. He took part in the candidates’ forum. And he enlisted a network of supporters who worked on his behalf inside city churches.

Nelson said he was comfortable “letting the people decide.” He, apparently read the voters and the timing correctly.  

When he is sworn into a second term May 5, he will assume the vice mayor role that is rotated among councilmen.

While apathy remains a concern (only 22.3% cared enough to vote), the race did highlight community issues, enlightened citizens and increased participation.

Nelson has nothing but kind words for the men who sought his seat.

That’s a positive for the process.

Three good and honorable men sought to serve. Though they differed in style, each ran a sincere, competent campaign, had enthusiastic support and injected ideas for improvement that should be considered.

The hope is all remain involved and engaged, encouraging others by their example to become more active. If that happens, we can all claim an election victory.

edarling@duncanbanner.com                                                                (580) 255-5354, Ext. 130

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