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Published: Wednesday, 10/7/2009

Trustee hopeful in Sylvania Township buries his rivals


Royal Barber, a candidate for Sylvania Township trustee, displays the names of his opponents on his yard's Halloween display. Royal Barber, a candidate for Sylvania Township trustee, displays the names of his opponents on his yard's Halloween display.

Royal Barber decided to add an election-season theme to the Halloween display in his front yard this year by painting the names of his rivals for two Sylvania Township trustee seats on plywood tombstones.

"We do tombstones and decorations all the time. I thought I'd do something different, something funny this year," said Mr. Barber, a 39-year-old Jeep assembly-line worker who moved from Point Place to Mockingbird Lane just under two years ago and is seeking public office for the first time.

Some of those rivals weren't particularly amused — most notably, Kevin Eff, who asked Mr. Barber to remove his name from the display.

"At the very least, it was just distasteful," Mr. Eff said last night. "The Sylvania community faces some very serious issues, and we need serious leaders to face them."

Mr. Barber complied with Mr. Eff's wishes, painting out "Eff" and replacing it with an asterisk, which Mr. Barber said was an allusion to cartoonist Garry Trudeau's convention of using an asterisk to represent both Presidents Bush in his Doonesbury comic strip.

Mr. Eff said he was satisfied with that response.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the last names of five other candidates remained on the tombstones: incumbents DeeDee Liedel and Pam Hanley, and fellow challengers Kevin Haddad, Penny Levine, and Dennis Boyle.

Mr. Barber, an endorsed Republican, said John Jennewine's name was missing because he had been unable to fit the nine letters on a "tombstone." He said that before the controversy broke out, he had planned to add "Jennewine" on an oversized strip of wood to one of the markers, which were accompanied by signs reading "Trustee Hill Cemetery" and "R.I.P. 11-3-09".

Mrs. Levine said she received calls about the display on Monday from friends in the neighborhood who found it offensive.

"But when I got there and saw what it was, I just burst out laughing," Ms. Levine said. "I think it's funny in a sense, but sad that he put so much time into it instead of running his own campaign and learning about the township."

And Carol Contrada, the one member of the three-person board of trustees not up for re-election this year, said the display was "not funny, and it's not attractive."

"Being a first-time person running for office, I can make fun of myself," Mr. Barber countered. "Maybe people who've been involved in politics longer than I have can't do that."

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