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New council members ready to serve

Newly elected Hastings City Council members are excited and eager to get to work.

Steve Huntley was elected to represent Ward 1 and south Hastings, Brad Consbruck was elected to represent Ward 2 and west Hastings, and Marc Rowan was elected to represent Ward 3 and central Hastings.

Incumbent Ward 4 Councilman Matt Fong was elected to a second term to represent east Hastings.

Council members are elected on a nonpartisan basis.

In the race for a Hastings City Council seat representing Ward 1, challenger Huntley was the top vote-getter with 631 votes or 56.28% of the total, according to unofficial results from the Adams County Clerk’s Office.

“I’m looking forward to representing citizens of the First Ward like I was put into office to do,” Huntley said. “I’m looking forward to working with the existing council members and the other council members to get some good things going for our community again.”

Ginny Skutnik, the incumbent, received 479 votes or 42.73% of the total. There were 11 write-in votes.

Skutnik is the current council president and longest-serving council member, having been appointed in September 2013.

“Of course I’m a little disappointed, but it’s the democratic process,” she said. “Nine years is a long time to be on the council. I’m not devastated by it. I just hope the best for the community — that they’re not hurt by representation. You work hard, and you hate to see anything go backwards.”

Huntley currently is a property manager but previously ran the office of a local contractor.

Skutnik works in Grand Island as the administrative assistant for the CNH Industrial vice president of manufacturing for North America.

In Ward 2, Consbruck received 1,259 votes or 61.47% of the total, and Meyer received 780 votes or 38.09% of the total. There were nine write-in votes.

Consbruck and Meyer ran against each other for the seat being vacated by Councilman Ted Schroeder, who announced in late January he would not seek a second term of office.

Consbruck said he will have to learn a lot between now and when new council members take office on Dec. 12.

“I’m just looking forward to being part of the process of things coming in or not coming in and generally learning the business of the city in a roundabout way,” he said.

Consbruck is maintenance director at The Heritage at College View. Previously, he was a Hastings police officer for six years and an Adams County deputy sheriff for 21 years.

Meyer owns and operates Trent Meyer Construction.

Consbruck and Meyer received the most votes during a primary election in May that saw five candidates running for the Ward 2 seat.

“I could kind of see the writing on the wall before the election,” Meyer said. “During the primary I didn’t come out on top. I’d like to still continue to try in a couple years, so I didn’t want to give up. I wasn’t ever going to give up on it, and I didn’t want people to think, ‘Well, he just quit and he isn’t serious about it.’ ”

Even though he wasn’t elected, Meyer was optimistic about the election results and likes the change among city leadership.

“We’re going to have a couple years of a little bit of change and then hopefully I can get in there and help make things better yet,” he said.

In Ward 3, challenger Rowan received 1,117 or 53.98% of the total and incumbent Chuck Rosenberg received 939 votes or 45.38% of the total. There were 13 write-in votes.

Originally from Thedford, Rowan has a diverse professional background in Hastings.

For more than seven years he has worked as office manager for Geiger and Dietze Ophthalmology.

He said he looks forward to make improvements that Third Ward residents who voted him in would like to see take place.

“I think when people elect three new folks into an office, the job is not to just do business as usual,” he said. “The job is to bring new people in with new ideas and see what we can all get accomplished together.”

Rosenberg, the president of City Iron and Metal, was running for a second council term.

“Obviously I’m disappointed in the results,” he said. “I did a lot of stuff for the city. I feel good that I ran a positive campaign, as well. That was important to me to do it that way.”

He has enjoyed his time on the council.

Rosenberg was disappointed by a postcard sent without attribution to Third Ward voters that depicted a caricature of him driving off with scrap metal from the 16th Street viaduct with money coming out of the pickup truck he is driving.

The postcard is titled “Just doin’ business as usual.” Among the statements on the back of the postcard are “Did he profit from the way he votes? Isn’t this a conflict of interest?”

It was the viaduct demolition contractor United Contractors of Johnston, Iowa, that approached City Iron and Metal about processing the scrap metal.

“I certainly never, in my life, would ever consider voting on anything for profit,” Rosenberg said. “It’s not the reason I ran for City Council nor would I ever conduct myself that way. I try to maintain an honest and upright profile in the community. Sometimes things come up in business because we’re a small town. You’ve got council people that are in a certain business that the city deals with. It was unfortunate those accusations were made about me and there’s obviously no basis or truth to them whatsoever.”

Rowan said he wasn’t a participant in creating the postcard.

“People thought that was what they should do to help me,” he said. “I said I don’t want to be part of that. That’s not how I do things.”

He said Rosenberg is the last councilperson he’d like to see leave the council.

“I wish I could’ve knocked anybody else off there except for him, but I had no choice,” he said.

In Ward 4, which includes east Hastings, Fong received 884 or 54.98% of the total and challenger Roger Harper received 713 or 44.34% of the total. There were 11 write-in votes.

Fong is the director of fundraising and outreach at the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center.

Harper retired from a career working with and serving as an administrator for programs focused on mentally disabled individuals.

It is the second term for Fong.

“It certainly is nice to continue to be able to represent the community of Hastings and residents of the Fourth Ward and I feel honored to have that ability,” he said.

Fong is optimistic about the future of Hastings.

“I am certainly hopeful that all of our new council members and current council members can find ways to work together to do what’s best for the community now and into the future,” he said.

Harper is glad Huntley, Consbruck and Rowan were elected.

“I’m grateful those three guys got in,” Harper said. “It’s just too bad it wasn’t four. Maybe I didn’t work hard enough.”

He said the city exploring options of moving city operations out of the City Building at 220 N. Hastings Ave., which had safety concerns; the City Council’s decision to demolish the 16th Street viaduct; and the Parks and Recreation Department’s decision to raze the former restroom and warming station at Heartwell Park — all of which he disagreed with — were reasons why he chose to run for public office.

He described these as examples of “purposeful, deferred maintenance.”

“Which has resulted in the destruction of historical buildings and the bad neglect of city hall,” he said.

Harper said he wants to see more public votes and would like to see other systematic changes, as well.

“The way City Council meetings are held is ridiculous,” he said. “People shouldn’t have to come at 5:30 p.m. You’re just getting off work. Those are the issues, and those issues remain.”

GOP nudges closer to House win; Senate could hinge on runoff

WASHINGTON — Republicans inched closer to a narrow House majority Wednesday, while control of the Senate hinged on a few tight races in a midterm election that defied expectations of sweeping conservative victories driven by frustration over inflation and President Joe Biden’s leadership.

Either party could secure a Senate majority with wins in both Nevada and Arizona — where the races were too early to call. But there was a strong possibility that, for the second time in two years, the Senate majority could come down to a runoff in Georgia next month, with Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker failing to earn enough votes to win outright.

In the House, Republicans on Wednesday night were within a dozen seats of the 218 needed to take control, while Democrats kept seats in districts from Virginia to Pennsylvania to Kansas and many West Coast contests were still too early to call. In a particularly symbolic victory for the GOP, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, the House Democratic campaign chief, lost his bid for a sixth term.

Control of Congress will decide how the next two years of Biden’s term play out, and whether he is able to achieve more of his agenda or will see it blocked by a new GOP majority. Republicans are likely to launch a spate of investigations into Biden, his family and his administration if they take power, while a GOP takeover of the Senate would hobble the president’s ability to appoint judges.

“Regardless of what the final tally of these elections show, and there’s still some counting going on, I’m prepared to work with my Republican colleagues,” Biden said Wednesday in his first public remarks since the polls closed. “The American people have made clear, I think, that they expect Republicans to be prepared to work with me as well.”

Democrats did better than history suggested they would. The party in power almost always suffers losses in the president’s first midterm elections, though even if the GOP ultimately wins the House, it won’t be by a margin as large as during other midterm cycles. Democrats gained a net of 41 House seats under then-President Donald Trump in 2018, President Barack Obama saw the GOP gain 63 in 2010 and Republicans gained 54 seats during President Bill Clinton’s first midterm.

A small majority in the House would pose a great challenge for the GOP and especially California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who is in line to be House speaker and would have little room for error in navigating a chamber of members eager to leverage their votes to advance their own agenda.

In the fight for Senate control, Pennsylvania was a bright spot for Democrats. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who suffered a stroke five months ago, flipped a Republican-controlled Senate seat, topping Trump-endorsed Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Georgia, meanwhile, was set for yet another runoff on Dec. 6. In 2021, Warnock used a runoff to win his seat, as did Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff — which gave Democrats control of the Senate. Both Warnock and Walker were already fundraising off the race stretching into a second round.

Both Republican and Democratic incumbents maintained key Senate seats. In Wisconsin, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson prevailed over Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, while in New Hampshire, Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan beat Don Bolduc, a retired Army general who had initially promoted Trump’s lies about the 2020 election but tried to shift away those views closer to Election Day.

AP VoteCast, a broad survey of the national electorate, showed that high inflation and concerns about the fragility of democracy were heavily influencing voters. Half of voters said inflation factored significantly, with groceries, gasoline, housing and other costs that have shot up in the past year. Slightly fewer — 44% — said the future of democracy was their primary consideration.

Biden didn’t entirely shoulder the blame for inflation, with close to half of voters saying the higher-than-usual prices were more because of factors outside of his control. And despite the president bearing criticism from a pessimistic electorate, some of those voters backed Democratic candidates.

Democrats counted on a midterm boost from the Supreme Court’s decision to gut abortion rights, which they thought might energize their voters, and the bet paid off. In four states where the issue was on the ballot, voters backed abortion rights. VoteCast showed that 7 in 10 national voters said overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was an important factor in their midterm decisions. It also showed the reversal was broadly unpopular. And roughly 6 in 10 said they favor a law guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide.

In the first national election since the Jan. 6 insurrection, some who participated in or were in the vicinity of the attack on the U.S. Capitol were poised to win elected office. One of those Republican candidates, Derrick Van Orden in Wisconsin — who was outside the Capitol during the deadly riot — won a House seat. Another, J.R. Majewski, lost to Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur.

Republicans had sought to make inroads in liberal New England but were shut out of House contests, with one Maine race still set to be determined by ranked choice voting.

Governors’ races took on outsized significance this year, particularly in battleground states that could help decide the results of the 2024 presidential election. Democrats held on to governors’ mansions in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, defeating Republicans who promoted Trump’s lies about a stolen 2020 election. Republicans held on to governors’ mansions in Florida, Texas and Georgia, another battleground state Biden narrowly won two years ago.

Trump found some success as well. He lifted Republican Senate candidates to victory in Ohio and North Carolina. JD Vance, the bestselling author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” defeated 10-term congressman Tim Ryan, while Rep. Ted Budd beat Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Trump had endorsed more than 300 candidates across the country, hoping the night would end in a red wave he could ride to the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. After summoning reporters and his most loyal supporters to a watch party at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida on Tuesday, he ended the night without a triumphant speech.

Still, the former president insisted on social media that he’d had “A GREAT EVENING.” Hours later, Palm Beach County issued an evacuation order for an area that included Trump’s club with Hurricane Nicole approaching.

Newcomers look forward to joining Hastings school board


Andrew McCarty put in a lot of hours knocking door to door to meet as many people as he could before he was elected to serve on the Hastings Board of Education.

He spoke to voters on their porches to find out their concerns and wants to bring those issues before the board.

“Everybody has concerns,” he said. “I think that’s one of the most important things — somebody who is elected being able to listen to different viewpoints. We’re not always going to agree with people but always respect where they are coming from.”

McCarty is one of four candidates chosen by voters Nov. 8 to sit on the school board for the next four years. Other winners from the election were Becky Sullivan, Stacie Widhelm and Jodi Graves.

Graves and Sullivan were the two incumbent board members seeking re-election. Current board members John Bonham and Tracey Katzberg chose not to seek new terms on the board.

It will be Sullivan’s third term on the board, for which she is thankful to voters.

“I’m very thankful that people chose to vote for me,” Sullivan said. “They had a lot of choices this time. Hopefully, that indicates people are satisfied with the job I’ve done.”

She is excited about the partnerships the school has developed to help get students ready for colleges or careers, as well as the new renovations at the Morton building to focus on enhancing early childhood education in the district.

“There will be hardships to face, but we have great staff in place to meet those challenges,” she said. “I’m excited to see what the next four years bring.”

Being previously appointed to the position, Graves said she was nervous about her first time through the election process. She is looking forward to serving a full four-year term.

“Anytime somebody gives you the confidence of their vote, it’s humbling,” she said. “It was a great race with a lot of candidates with diverse backgrounds.”

With two new board members incoming, she is curious to see how it affects the dynamics of the group.

Despite it starting as a crowded field of 12, Graves thanked all the candidates who ran. She said it’s important to have people willing to step up to help the school district.

“It’s worth recognizing all the candidates that put themselves out there to run,” she said. “It can be emotionally, physically and financially draining. I think that deserves to be recognized.”

For newcomer Stacie Widhelm, it will be a learning experience, but she’s up for the challenge. She knows many of the board members through contacts in the community, but serving with them on the board will change things slightly.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity,” Widhelm said. “There’s still a lot of learning that will go into this.”

She said communication with teachers and staff as well as parents is crucial to being able to give people answers to questions about decisions made by the board.

“I am here to represent everybody,” she said. “I want people to feel comfortable in approaching me with questions and concerns.”

Looking toward officially joining the board in January, McCarty said he wants to explore ways to bring teachers into the district since it’s a major concern.

“We need to really be creative from a district standpoint on the recruiting and retention of teachers,” he said. “It’s really important to look at how we can continue to support teachers.”

Morrow looks forward to new position as Register of Deeds

Byron Morrow will start learning a new job as he transitions into the next Register of Deeds for Adams County.

Voters elected Morrow, the Republican challenger for the position, on Tuesday with 6,160 votes, or 62.7% of the total. He will be replacing Democratic incumbent Rachel Ormsby, who received 3,663 votes or 37.3%.

“I’m very excited about it,” Morrow said. “I thought the voter turnout was good. I feel good about it.”

His first task will be to learn more about the office, its staff and the customers it serves. The Register of Deeds files, preserves and maintains the land records for Adams County. Those records are public documents and can be viewed at the office, with most also available online.

“I want to get out and get acquaint myself with the customers of that office,” he said “I want to see what suggestions and thoughts they have and give them the opportunity to have input.”

Morrow, of Hastings, currently serves as a deputy sheriff with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. He started as a corrections officer for the sheriff’s office in 2002 before joining the Hastings Police Department as a certified patrol officer in 2004. In 2006, he returned to the sheriff’s office as a deputy.

He said Ormsby did a good job getting out and campaigning, but Adams County always has trended more toward the Republican side.

Morrow thanked everyone who supported and encouraged him through the election process.

“I look forward to the future and seeing what we can do to make the office better,” he said.

In January, Ormsby, of Ayr, will be leaving the office she has worked in for the past 14 years. She has spent six years as clerk, four years as deputy registrar and four years as registrar.

Ormsby said she was disappointed voters didn’t value her experience in the job as much as the letter behind her name. She believes the race was politicized needlessly when the role is outlined by state statute and isn’t affected by political affiliation.

“No party has really any bearing on the office,” she said. “I feel like some people didn’t realize this was my job. This is my family’s paycheck.”

Ormsby was saddened and disappointed by the results, as was her family as they now make plans to deal with the lost income. She felt confident going into Election Night based on the positive comments and feedback she had received in the community.

“I made so many new friends through this,” she said. “It was very emotional to have support from people who I didn’t expect it to come from. I can’t thank people enough.”