BOTKINS — There’s a new elected official in Botkins, but don’t expect him to greet constituents with smile.
In a fundraising scheme by the Botkins Historical Society, Don Ellinger was voted the village’s favorite grouch.
Area residents were invited to pay $1 per single vote, $5 for six votes or $10 for 15 votes and to select from among Mayor Steve “Woody” Woodruff, Josh Meyer and Ellinger. Society President Greg Geis said there were also write-in votes for Tim Rogers. Ellinger won in a landslide by more than 350 votes.
Botkins once was known for its population signs at the edge of town, which read “Population 1,154 nice people and 1 grouch.” Geis said it was time to have a grouch again.
The project raised almost $700 for the society’s renovations (see accompanying story).
“We really had a good time,” Ellinger said. The voting, which concluded during the Botkins Carousel festival, Sunday, had been “neck and neck,” he said. But then, his children decided the campaign should include a float in the Carousel parade, and that put votes over the top for him.
In the early days of the campaign, Ellinger posted signs in town and his children lobbied on Facebook for votes. Ellinger and his wife, Donna, have four children and 15 grandchildren.
“The kids were so excited,” Donna said.
The float had a patriotic theme, but to prove just how grouchy Ellinger could be, his family armed themselves with squirt guns and “shot” spectators along the parade route. The candidate operated a super soaker, but it wasn’t just his targets who got wet.
“I got soaked keeping the kids’ squirt guns filled,” he laughed.
The spectators laughed, too.
“We were at the end of the parade,” Donna said. “It was so hot that day. Everyone was sweltering. We’d shoot them and they’d laugh.”
When the float passed the parade reviewing stand, its riders shouted, “This is the other Donald that was running!” and “We’re not investigating voter fraud so vote more than once!”
“We didn’t have WikiLeaks; we had leaking guns,” Donna said slyly, referencing November’s U.S. presidential election.
Ellinger, who has retired from driving semis, charter buses and school buses, and Donna, who is a retired registered nurse, hope the grouch election will be an annual event.
“The biggest winner is the historical society,” Ellinger said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.