Powell Mayor Scott Mangold received six such votes, but he reaffirmed last week that he has no interest in seeking a third term.
When Mangold declined, the position then fell to three others who received three write-in votes each (the minimum needed to qualify for the ballot): current City Councilman John Wetzel, former Northwest College basketball coach Ken Rochlitz and local resident Drew Jones, whose friends had made a push for him as a practical joke.
Wetzel won a random drawing on Tuesday to get the next shot at the ballot slot, but after sleeping on it, he decided against entering the race Wednesday.
“I’m flattered, but I’m not sure I can handle the campaign,” said Wetzel, who was actually on the primary election ballot as a Republican candidate for the Park County Commission. He finished third in the race where only the top two GOP candidates could advance.
Wetzel lives in Powell but works in Cody as manager of the Buyer’s Guide, which is co-owned by the Powell Tribune. He cited concern about needing to shuttle back and forth from work to City Hall, speaking events and other mayoral duties during the week if he was elected, along with other obligations.
Wetzel still has two years remaining on his current council term in Ward 2.
“I think I can still continue to represent the constituents and folks of Powell quite well from my council seat, and I’m sure there’s a few people that’d like me to run, but I just don’t see any huge benefit to that,” Wetzel said. He said he’d need to make a whole-hearted effort for mayor if he was going to run and couldn’t commit to that.
“Just to give the citizens a choice isn’t enough of a reason, I guess,” Wetzel said.
Rochlitz needed less time to decide on bowing out, doing so immediately after hearing from the Tribune that his name was on the short list for the mayor race.
“Just scratch that thing off,” said Rochlitz on Wednesday, laughing. “I’m not very smart, but I’m smarter than that.”
The longtime NWC coach had a little bit of warning that he might be one of the folks who’d been written-in.
“A couple of my buddies at coffee said (they had), and I thought they were just teasing me, but they weren’t,” said Rochlitz, quipping, “I think I’ll take a rain check on that.”
Park County Clerk Jerri Torczon said Jones is not a registered voter in Park County and therefore was not eligible to be entered in Tuesday’s random drawing between Wetzel and Rochlitz. Jones had previously been registered to vote in Albany County, where he was going to school, and then had to work late on primary night, he said.
“Who would have thought not voting would have got me out of a pickle?” Jones said.
A group of Jones’ friends had waged a tongue-in-cheek write-in campaign on his behalf, promising in silly signs around town and on a “Drew Jones Mayor” Facebook page that he would “save Powell,” along with the world.
Stephen Anderson, a friend of Jones’ who spearheaded the effort, told the Tribune it began as prank, but said that after the Facebook page drew some 250 supporters in a week, Jones agreed he would run if he got enough votes.
“Whether or not he was serious was another question,” Anderson qualified. Anderson confirmed he would have been Jones’ campaign manager for the mayoral race, though he admitted he hadn’t thought to check if his candidate was registered to vote.
Given that the faux campaign Facebook page for Jones ended up with 319 friends, turnout among supporters was apparently low at last Tuesday’s primary.
Anderson doesn’t have any plans to launch a unsolicited campaign on Jones’ behalf in the future.
“I think the next time, I’d be willing to get behind him again, but it’d have to be his idea,” Anderson said with a laugh.
With all four candidates declining, Hillman will appear as the only candidate for mayor on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Hillman received 972 votes in the primary election, just under 95 percent of the vote.