Johnson, Payson win seats on Borough Council in Allentown

ALLENTOWN – In the end, the race for a seat on the Allentown Borough Council came down to one vote and Daniel Payson got that vote.

On Nov. 5, two three-year terms on the council were on the ballot.

According to results posted online by the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office, Payson won his first term on the governing body with 350 votes. That was one vote more than the 349 votes Tom Braunworth received in his bid for a council seat.

Martha Johnson received 364 votes to claim her first term on Allentown’s governing body.

Councilman Rob Schmitt came up short in his bid for a third term as he received 320 votes.

Johnson was the clear winner of a council seat after machine votes and mail-in votes had been counted, but Payson and Braunworth were tied with 345 votes on Nov. 12 when provisional ballots that were cast at Allentown’s polling places on Election Day were counted by county election officials.

Payson received five provisional votes and Braunworth received four provisional votes to create the final count and give Payson a one-vote margin of victory.

Following the announcement of his victory, Payson said, “This election truly exemplified the saying ‘every vote counts.’ I am honored the residents of Allentown chose me to be their next councilman. I am beyond excited to give back to the town that gave me so much. I am looking forward to working with everyone on council. I would like to personally thank Mayor (Greg) Westfall and Councilman Schmitt for their service and also congratulate Martha Johnson on her win.”

Following her victory, Johnson said, “First, I would like to thank each of the voters who elected me as the next councilwoman of this great community. My passion and enthusiasm will continue to serve all residents of Allentown. (During) these next upcoming years in this office, we will work effortlessly to keep Allentown together, stronger and better.”

At a council meeting on the evening of Nov. 12, municipal officials and residents offered their congratulations to Johnson and Payson. They will take office in January when the council holds its annual reorganization meeting.

Also on reorganization day, Thomas Fritts, who has been on the council since January 2017, will be sworn in to begin serving his first four-year term as mayor.

Fritts, an independent candidate, defeated Westfall, who was also an independent candidate, 419 votes to 337 votes, in the final numbers from the mayoral election. Johnson was one of Westfall’s two running mates (Braunworth was the other) and Payson ran on a ticket with Fritts.

In a statement he read during the meeting, Westfall said, “I am both grateful and honored for the opportunity Allentown residents have given me to represent and serve them.

“In spite of the circumstances all of us on the governing body have found ourselves in following years of neglect of our waste water treatment system, I am proud of all that has been accomplished during the past four years. Being mayor of this historic village has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

“I congratulate and extend my best wishes to Thomas Fritts and look forward to working
with him for a smooth transition. I also offer my experience and interest in assisting he
and the governing body on environmental, open space and other related issues. I ask
every member of our village to come together for the greater good of Allentown,” Westfall said.

Fritts thanked Westfall for his service and said he was hopeful they could work together in the future, specifically on open space issues. He thanked Schmitt for his work as a councilman on behalf of the borough.