Two incumbents looked safe in their seats and newcomer Roy Barron was leading with 55.9 percent of the vote, but a three-way race for Ward 1 of the Hermiston City Council was too close to call when early election results were called on Tuesday night.
Shortly after polls closed, Mark Gomolski was leading the Ward 1 race with 35.7 percent of the vote, followed by incumbent Lori Davis at 32.5 percent and Jackie Linton at 31.5 percent. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote when all ballots are counted, the top two vote-getters face off again in the general election in November.
Gomolski, who is retired and moved to Hermiston in 2015 from Chicago, is currently a member of the Hermiston School District school board, which meets on the second and fourth Monday of each month at the same time as the city council. He said if he wins it would be a good opportunity to ask the school board to vote to change its meeting nights, since he knows people in the community who would like to attend both.
Gomolski said about 9:30 p.m. that although the race was still too close to call, he was not disappointed by the fact that he and Linton had gotten such a large share of the vote against an incumbent.
“It shows people are fed up with the current administration and who is in there,” he said.
Davis has been a city councilor since 2010 and works for the Department of Corrections. While she wasn’t able to be reached late Tuesday night, she had previously said she wanted to run again because she felt she still had more to learn and to contribute.
Linton grew up in Hermiston and returned after retirement, although she now substitute teaches at Hermiston School District. She was trailing Davis by 15 votes in the first return Tuesday night, and said she still held out hope of pulling ahead. Either way, she said, she had enjoyed the experience of going door to door and meeting with voters, and said she learned that although few people attend the city council meetings many people said they would look up meeting minutes later when the topic interested them.
“They’re paying attention,” she said. “They’re keeping up with what’s going on.”
The council is sure to get at least one new face in January after current councilor Clara Beas Fitzgerald announced she was not running again in order to focus on other endeavors. Her husband Shean Fitzgerald filed for the seat, as did Roy Barron, who moved to Hermiston in 2015 after graduating from Xavier University in Cincinnati. As of 8:05 p.m. Barron was leading Fitzgerald 736 votes to 600.
“This town has given me many opportunities, and I’m so grateful it’s giving me another,” he said. “I’m ready to go.”
Barron grew up in Weiser, Idaho and now works for Umatilla County in the RISE program, which sends mental health counselors into schools. He said he already has some experience with the city through his membership on the Hispanic Advisory Committee but he will also begin attending city council meetings in preparation for when the new councilors take their seats on Jan. 1, 2019. He said he wanted to thank his opponent Fitzgerald, who was always very respectful through the process of campaigning.
“I think it’s great to have an election with choices, and I think he also would have been a great choice,” he said.
As of 8:05 p.m. incumbent Jackie Myers was leading challenger Kyran Miller 56.3 percent to 43.5 percent. She has served on the council since 1994 and works for Severson Accounting.
Myers said she was honored to be re-elected again.
“As always, I will do my best to represent the people of Hermiston and the city of Hermiston,” she said.
Doug Smith, another incumbent, is currently in his first term and had 62.5 percent of the vote Tuesday night. His challenger, Michael Engelbrecht, had previously announced he was dropping out of the race even though he did not do so in time to keep his name off the ballot. Smith is a former officer of the Hermiston Police Department and now works as a contractor.
On Tuesday Thomas Creasing was also re-elected as municipal judge for Hermiston. He was running unopposed.