New Cumberland race heating up

NEW CUMBERLAND – An interesting political season may be in the offing now that three people have filed to run for mayor of the Hancock County seat.

New Cumberland city elections, held every two years, are scheduled for May 14 and will decide the mayor’s race and three city council races.

Incumbent Mayor Richard Blackwell, 71, said he will run for re-election. He will face 1st Ward Councilman Pat Jones and political newcomer Linda McNeil, 71, president of the Hancock County Museum Commission.

In city council, only one race is contested; Ward 1, Seat C, which will pit incumbent Brian Webster, 47, against Melissa Perkins, 48. Ward 2 incumbents Shawn Marks, 63, and Judith Bartley are both running unopposed.

Ward 2, Seat B Councilman Jack “Art” Watson is not running for re-election, and no one filed for that seat by the Jan. 26 deadline, so the vacancy will have to be filled by mayoral appointment, City Clerk Tammy Jenkins said.

New Cumberland has two wards, each of which has three council seats. Council members serve four-year terms, but the terms are staggered so that there are elections for some seats every two years.

“There’s never a total replacement of council,” said Blackwell, a former councilman who was appointment mayor in May 2011 after the resignation of Mayor Joe Sargent.

Council members who serve by mayoral appointment must run for election after two years, Jenkins said.

In the mayoral race, Blackwell will have a two-year record to run on. Previously, he served on city council “on and off” since 1973.

McNeil, a retired registered nurse, said she decided to run for mayor because “I see some issues in the town that I think I have the ability to help correct. … We’re a good little town, and we are a good place for businesses to come to. I think I have some experience … that would help me work on that part of it.”

McNeil said she has successfully worked with local government officials in her capacity as museum commission president.

Jones, who brings his city council experience to the mayor’s race, could not be reached for comment.

In the one contested city council race, Perkins said she decided to run because “there needs to be some changes in the city government. There’s just too many things pushed through because nobody wants to differ with anybody.”

A bookkeeper at the Hancock County Sheltered Workshop, Perkins served on council for two months in 2011.

She was appointed to Blackwell’s vacated seat in May of that year but had to relinquish it when Jones was elected and took office in July. Council terms run from July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

Webster, concluding the end of his second term, comes from a family with a history of public service. His father, William Webster, was both Hancock County sheriff and New Cumberland police chief. His grandfather, John D. Herron, was New Cumberland justice of the peace.

“I was just real interested in the city. I just wanted to help the city as much as I could,” he said.

A retired truck driver, Marks is finishing a two-year stint on council and is hoping to be elected to his first full term.

“I’m enjoying the ride,” he said.

Bartley, who could not be reached for comment, assumed her seat in November 2011 for the resigning Bob Mills.

A drawing for the order in which candidates’ names will appear on the ballot will be held on Tuesday.

There are an estimated 900 registered voters in New Cumberland.

(Huba can be contacted at