Off-year election: Predictable results, leadership crisis looms

The only way to read the message of an election is to follow the numbers.

The voter turnout in Lycoming County was about 25 percent, typical for an “off-year” election but unsettling nonetheless. Ideally, a much greater percentage of eligible voters would be making decisions about the county’s elected leadership.

Those who did vote indicated that are happy with the leadership they are getting.

In Williamsport, the three incumbent City Council members, Republicans Randall J. Allison and N. Clifford Smith and Democrat Liz Miele, were decisively re-elected over the three challengers.

In the key Lycoming County race, Sheriff Mark Lusk was re-elected in a landslide. Judge Richard A. Gray was retained.

There will be new blood on the Williamsport Area School Board. The lone incumbent on the ballot, Jane L. Penman, was re-elected. But four newcomers, Spencer Sweeting, Nicholas Grimes, Robin Knauth and Chester Peterman, will be joining her.

Those were the high points in a comparatively routine off-year election.

But don’t be deceived. There were a number of key leadership decisions being made by voters throughout the region in dozens of borough, township and school board races.

And those results will show themselves in countless ways in the decisions made by new and re-elected school board members, township supervisors and borough councilmen in the next four years.

Perhaps the most unsettling part of the Tuesday’s election, beyond the low turnout, was the lack of competition in many cases. Williamsport Area School Board had candidates only by virtue of write-ins in the May Primary Election, for example.

If there aren’t more people getting the itch for public stewardship in the years to come, a crisis of leadership looms. If that sounds alarmist, remember that the most important public decisions are made closest to home.