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Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Harris ousted from council

By Amy Kronenberger
ST. MARYS - Longtime council member Jim Harris will say goodbye after losing his at-large council seat to a newcomer.
Five candidates ran for three open at-large seats in Tuesday's primary election, including Harris and fellow incumbent Bob Fitzgerald. Also running were Auglaize County Dog Warden Russ Bailey, former St. Marys Economic Development Director Todd Fleagle and Dan Uhlenhake, a prepress manager at Post Printing in Minster.
Current at-large council member Ron Ginter is retiring.
Fitzgerald carried the majority of the votes in the unofficial results with 731, or 24.8 percent. Fleagle received 619 votes, or 21 percent, and Uhlenhake claimed the third most votes with 586, or 19.9 percent.
Bailey missed an at-large seat by only six votes, receiving 580, or 19.7 percent. With 51 provisional ballots still to count, the final results could be altered.
Harris, who has served on council for 14 years, received the lowest number of votes with 427, or 14.5 percent.
"I will continue to act in the best interest of St. Marys until the end of my term," he said this morning. "I hope the new council will work as well together as the council I'm working with now, for the sake of St. Marys."
No Democratic candidates ran for the seats; the three Republicans will be unopposed in November's general election.
The three top candidates said the close vote reflected the strength of the candidates.
"All five candidates were quality candidates so it made deciding difficult for voters," Fitzgerald said.
Fleagle echoed Fitzgerald's words, saying the close race was good for small-town politics.
"I look forward to working with the city again, and helping St. Marys move forward," he said.
Uhlenhake said topping Bailey by only six votes surprised him.
"I didn't think things would be that close; six votes, that's something else," he said. "Looking at that vote count really reflects what a good group of candidates we had ... Russ Bailey has always been a good public servant and Jim Harris was a big surprise. He's served the city for so long; no one expected that."
Fitzgerald and Uhlenhake said they look forward to working to keep St. Marys moving in a positive direction.
The only other contested seat in St. Marys council was Ward 2. Current Ward 2 council member Dennis Vossler did not seek re-election.
Fist-time Republican candidate David Lunz, who works for Auglaize County Council on Aging, captured 55.6 percent of the vote with 215. County computer operations manager and also a first-time Republican candidate Cameron Ruppert received 172 votes.
Lunz said he's thankful for the voters' support and hopes to continue that support in the general election.
"Hopefully I'll win that ... so I can help keep St. Marys moving forward," he said.
Lunz will face Democrat Ken Koverman in November. Koverman ran unopposed in Tuesday's primary.
Other unopposed candidates were Ward 1 Republican incumbent John Bubp, Ward 3 Democratic candidate and former mayor Greg Freewalt, Ward 4 Democratic incumbent Robin Willoughby and council president, Republican incumbent Dan Hoelscher.
Current Ward 3 councilman Bill Slemmons also announced he will retire at the end of the year.
Incumbent city treasurer Sue Pfeffenberger is retiring at the end of the year. Her husband, Dennis Pfeffenberger, a Democrat, ran uncontested for the position.
Total voter turnout in Auglaize County was 22.9 percent out of 24,363 total registered voters. Total ballots cast were 5,589, 1,222 of which were Republican and 4,367 were nonpartisan.
Board of Elections director Carolyn Campbell said she only encountered one minor issue on Election Day. One of the voting machines would not start up in the morning so it had to be replaced.
"But that's fairly common," she said. "Those machines sometimes do that."
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