Mayor Mark Stoner, who won a fourth term as mayor on Tuesday, said he was a little worried this year whether voters would re-elect him or vote for his challenger, Councilman Dave Gallaher.
After all, Stoner presided over a tough third term, which included deep cuts in personnel and programs as a result of a decrease in the city’s income tax revenue. Also, he and other officials were named in a lawsuit filed by the widow of a resident who had to wait 28 minutes for a rescue squad to help him. He later succumbed in a hospital.
Despite the rocky third term, Stoner was re-elected by a vote of 838 to 807, according to unofficial results from the Wood County Board of Elections.
“I talked to people, and that is why they voted for me - I made the tough calls and helped guide the city through a very difficult time,” said Stoner on Wednesday. “It’s easy to run the city when everything’s good and the economy is strong, but when you have to make the tough decisions of what to cut, who loses a job, that’s not easy. Voters appreciated the fact I did do that. It wasn’t easy. And they supported me for not raising taxes.”
Stoner also thought his proposed 24/7 Advanced Life Support (ALS) system for the city, which would guarantee that a paramedic will respond to emergency calls, may have also made the difference. Gallaher had misgivings, saying the system would be too costly.
“This is just as vital as police service,” said Stoner. “I don’t have statistics to prove it, but there’s a greater probability you’re going to need a fire service than a police service. Residents think that is a priority. We’ll see what council thinks pretty soon.”
Stoner is not promising ALS immediately. That should come in time, he said.
In next year’s budget, he has included Basic Life Support (BLS) service, which was recommended by the city’s new fire chief, Joel Whitmore.
“We talked to Joel and he came back for a recommendation for BLS. I’m alright with that. At least it’s a step in the right direction,” said Stoner. “Council has other things they’re thinking about. It’s in my budget. If they want to change it or add something else, they will have to decide for themselves. With BLS, we will have at least an EMT 24/7. So we’ll have two people ready to go as soon as they get the call.”
Also helping Stoner this year is that the city’s income tax revenue stopped sliding.
“Things started picking up a little over a year ago. We started showing some positive numbers,” said Stoner. “At least we’re making some improvements. For the next budget, we’re going to hire another police officer and another person in the street department. Council still has to approve it. They should have an ordinance on the budget for the November 17 meeting, when it will have a first reading. It should have its final reading in December, then be ready to go next year.”
Gallaher, who has challenged Stoner in the last three mayor’s races, thought he had a real chance to win this time, he said.
“It’s a little discouraging. People do voice an opinion and give an indication they would like to see different ideas, which is encouraging,” said Gallaher. “There were some real issues out there. All the feedback I was getting was encouraging. But some people are just convinced that this is as good as it’s going to get.”
He also thought he may have been hurt by low voter turnout. Just 50 percent of registered voters went to the polls.
“The one good thing about any election is when candidates get out into the streets to find out what people are concerned about, and it does give you the chance to connect and focus on what needs to be done. There are still goals. Nothing is impossible. They can still get done. I’ll keep slugging away,” he said.