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Tails: Smith wins Hartford Council election tiebreaker

In Local, News by Lee Bratcher

County Clerk Bess Ralph, left, lets Tony Ward, center, and Eric Smith, right, inspect the coin to be used to decide which candidate will serve on the Hartford City Council. Both men received 335 votes in last Tuesday’s election.

By Lee Bratcher/OC Monitor

HARTFORD, Ky. — Most candidates knew where they stood after Election Day last Tuesday, but for Eric Smith and Tony Ward, they had to wait for a coin flip three days later to decide their race.

Ward, an incumbent, and Smith were candidates for Hartford City Council. Ward and Smith joined seven other candidates in running for city council. The top six vote getters will make up the council. Both Smith and Ward tied for sixth place with 335 votes a piece. After checking state law, it was decided a coin flip would break the tie.

At 4:30 p.m. Friday, both men, as well as the Ohio County Election Board, came to the Ohio County Clerk’s Office in the Ohio County Courthouse. County Clerk Bess Ralph explained the coin flip rules to the men and those in attendance.

Ralph had two sealed envelopes, one had a piece of paper with “head” written on it and in the other envelope was a piece of paper with “tail” written on it. Each man had to choose an envelope, sign their envelope and then Ralph would flip the coin.

After choosing their envelopes, Ralph informed the men she would flip the quarter in the air, catch it, then place the coin on the back of her other hand, revealing the result. If she did not catch the coin, she would continue to flip it until she caught it and placed it on her hand.

Before flipping the coin, Ralph admitted even she was a bit nervous, but she had practiced the flip a few times earlier in the day. Ralph flipped the coin, caught it and placed it on her hand to show, “tails.”

County Clerk Bess Ralph shows the result of her coin flip. It was “tails.”

Both men opened their envelope and Smith’s had the piece of paper with “tail” written on it. Smith will now go on to serve on the city council, beginning in January.

Eric Smith chose the envelope holding a piece of paper with “tail” written on it. Smith will begin serving on the Hartford City Council in January 2019.

When asked why he decided to run, Smith said when he turned in his election papers, he was one of only five candidates who had filed for city council. Smith was afraid there wouldn’t be enough candidates to fill the council’s six seats, which is why he ran. Nine candidates eventually filed to run for city council.

“As it filled up, I kind of got excited. I hoped to see about 20 people on the ballot because we’re all neighbors here, we’re all citizens of Hartford and we were all here for the same reason,” Smith said. “I wasn’t in a race against anyone, I was running with everyone.”

Ward, who has served the last eight years on the city council seemed at peace with the results of the coin flip.

“I’m tired. I was ready for somewhat of a rest. I think we’ve got a good complement of council members,” Ward said. “It’s not an easy task. There’s a lot of hard decisions (to be made). (Those decisions) are not always popular, but as long as you keep Hartford in the forefront, as residents, I think you’ll be fine.”

To prepare for his new position, Smith plans to talk to those who preceded him on the council, including Ward.

“As I rose through the ranks in the Marines, I talked to people who have been there and done that,” Smith said. “You also have to adapt with the times. Things change, policies change, infrastructure changes, so you’ve got to stay up on those types of changes and bounce it off people who have been there. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility now to make things happen.”

Smith, who retired from the U.S. Marines Corps, was born and raised in Ohio County and moved to Hartford eight years ago after he retired. He will join incumbent Jerry Likens, Kenny Desmond, David C. Coleman, Tony Renfrow and Mary Bell Fisher.

To see the coin flip, see video below.