The moment was here.
“Who’s got a coin?” asked Mayor Dean Christensen.
The people crowded in City Hall looked around at one another and fumbled for coins.
Councilman Keith Shannon fished a quarter out of his pocket.
The mayor called heads. His challenger, state dam inspector Dave LePard, got tails.
The coin would decide which of the two would be mayor. On Tuesday, each had received 59 votes for mayor. A third candidate, Gerry Kirkpatrick, had netted 24 votes.
Harrison old-timers said it was the third coin-flip election they could recall.
City Clerk Sheila Gustin took the quarter, looked around and flipped. The coin, twirling, sailed through the air, bounced off a computer printer and rattled to a stop on the desk.
Gustin looked at it. “Tails,” she said.
Dave LePard was the city’s new mayor.
“Congratulations, mayor,” said Christensen, seated at the desk he’ll relinquish at the first council meeting in January.
Christensen said later that he isn’t too disappointed.
“Dave’s going to be a good mayor,” he said. He had appointed LePard to the city’s planning and zoning board.
Christensen said he doesn’t have any other political plans.
“Not right away, anyway,” he said.
He drew criticism recently for living with deputy city clerk Betsy Turner, who the council also appointed election judge. He said they’re just friends, and both denied the arrangement was a conflict of interest.
LePard said the coin-toss was a bittersweet victory.
“It really doesn’t seem fair,” he said.
He said he’d rather have seen a runoff election between Christensen and himself. Several others in the town of 226 agreed.
Peggy McClelland said voters should decide the issue, not chance.
“It would be nice if the people in the town got to make a choice between the two candidates,” said McClelland. “This is a democratic society, and I think we’re a little more advanced than people think.”
But city attorney Don Passow said the city would need a special ordinance for runoff elections. It doesn’t have one.
LePard said he ran because he wants to improve the small city’s infrastructure - streets, water and sewer.
A Des Moines, Iowa, native, Lepard said he never thought he’d be a mayor.
“I didn’t get involved. You don’t in the large towns,” he said. “Here, it’s a whole lot easier.”
As the crowd filed out of the Harrison City Hall, Councilman Shannon turned and asked for his quarter back. Then, thinking back to the two previous coin-flip elections, he changed his mind.
“No, put it up somewhere,” he said to the clerk. “We may need it in the future. That may be the ceremonial coin.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo