Election ushers in new-look city hall

Photo by James Mitchell
Candidate supporters greeted voters at Blair Moody School, 8280 Hipp, Tuesday as Taylor voters ushered in new administration including mayor, treasurer and all seven city council seats. More than 22 percent of registered voters cast ballots in one of the most hotly-contested candidate races in city history.

Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — With only City Clerk Cynthia Bower winning re-election Tuesday, voters in Taylor sent a decided message of change at city hall.

Councilman Rick Sollars will succeed Jeffrey Lamarand as mayor after a decisive victory over the incumbent. Sollars — ending his second four-year term on council — garnered 5,808 vote (58 percent) of general election ballots against 4,246 for Lamarand (42 percent).

According to the city clerk’s office, Tuesday’s election drew participation from 22.8 percent of registered voters — 10,149 ballots were cast from out of 44,594 eligible voters.

“The message was sent,” Sollars said of the polling. Other than the re-election of recent-appointee Bower, “Nobody was re-elected. It’s all new people.”

The other two full-time positions were equally challenged, and Bower’s 5,466 votes captured 57 percent of the ballots against challenger Jill Brandana’s 4,043 (43 percent). Bower was appointed clerk in 2012; Brandana is concluding her second term on city council.

The treasurer’s office that sat vacant for more than two years will be filled by Edward Bourassa, who edged out a narrow victory with 4,889 votes (51 percent) over challenger Cheryl Burke’s 4,719 (49 percent).

Burke, serving her second term on council, was among several panelists who sought another office: Suzanne Weycker did not seek re-election, and councilwoman Jacklyn Molner was defeated during the primary election in her bid for treasurer. The two remaining incumbents seeking a seat on city council — John Delo and Dennis Stapleton — failed to gain voter approval.

Instead, seven relative newcomers were elected to city council: Linda Parker-Craig (4,572 votes, 8 percent), Angela Croft (4,548 8 percent), Alex Garza (4,511, 8 percent), Tim Woolley (4,334, 8 percent), Charley Johnson (4,093, 8 percent), Linda Roberts (4,078, 8 percent) and Daniel Bzura (3,924, 7 percent).

Candidates falling short of a council seat were Tim Faremouth (3,755, 7 percent), Tim Witz (3,633, 7 percent), Delo (3,591, 7 percent), Stapleton (3,567, 7 percent), Herman Ramik (3,319, 6 percent), Bob Tompos (3,176, 6 percent) and Keith Blanchard (2,875, 5 percent).

Sollars said it’s no secret that Taylor has long been conflicted with as much political turmoil as economic uncertainty, and hoped that fresh voices and an improved economy will bring a new beginning to the city.

“I’d like to tear down some of the political walls and start building bridges,” Sollars said. “The current administration weren’t terrible people or terrible leaders, they were in office at a terrible time. The one thing (Lamarand) did was make a lot of tough decisions. Quite honestly, a lot of the heavy lifting’s been done.”

Lamarand said he spoke with Sollars after the election, and the transition will take place in the next two weeks.

Lamarand’s term of service included a host of challenges including recall attempts, a frequently contentious council and a budget deficit that approached state-takeover levels before a five-year debt-elimination plan was prepared and put into action.

Any regrets Lamarand had about leaving were in not seeing the five-year plan finished, and also the opportunity to work with an unprecedented all-newcomer city council. Lamarand said that fresh perspectives might be a positive for the long-troubled council chambers.

“I don’t think it’s going to hurt,” Lamarand said of seven rookie councilors. “I’d love to have had an all-new council and work on projects going forward. I think we laid enough groundwork for the new administration and council to hit the ground running.

“Overall, it’s a good group of people that’s been elected, and as a resident I look forward to seeing how they work together.”

Sollars said the city will continue with its current five-year debt elimination plan, and he hopes to be more inclusive in working with elected officials, department heads and city hall staff.

“It won’t be a cake walk,” Sollars said. “There’s a lot of work ahead.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)