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Wednesday, November 9,2011

Wiehl, Papai both win easily in city elections

By David DeWitt

Photo Caption: Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl.

Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl won re-election to another four-year term Tuesday night with a solid victory over Republican challenger Randy Morris.

Wiehl, a Democrat, won with 71 percent of the vote compared to 29 percent for Morris. Wiehl received 2,385 votes while Morris got 972, according to unofficial election results from the Athens County Board of Elections.

Athens County had a 32 percent turnout of registered voters according to the unofficial results. The results will remain unofficial until the final tallies are approved by the county Board of Elections.

Also within the city, in Athens' Third Ward race for City Council, Democrat Michele Papai defeated independent R.J. Sumney with 69 percent of the vote compared to 31 percent. Papai received 568 votes to Sumney's 250. Only registered voters in the Third Ward could vote in that race.

Papai will replace City Council member Nancy Bain, who had served on council for several decades. Second Ward member Sherry Coon is also stepping down, and Jeff Risner, who ran unopposed, will replace her.

Jim Sands will replace Bill Bias as City Council president after winning his unopposed bid for that position. City Council will also see a new face in at-large member Steve Patterson, who won an at-large seat along with incumbents Elahu Gosney and Christine Knisely. These three were the only ones running for the three at-large seats.

Other incumbent officeholders who were re-elected Tuesday after facing no opposition include Athens Law Director Pat Lang, city Auditor Kathy Hecht, First Ward Council member Kent Butler and Fourth Ward Council member Christine Fahl.

In other contested races around the county, John Sullivan defeated Shawn Phillips for mayor of the village of Buchtel 69 percent to 31 percent; and Miles Wolf defeated Robert Funk for mayor of the village of Glouster 57 percent to 43 percent. Also, Ted Linscott defeated David W. Ratliff for Athens Township trustee 64 percent to 36 percent.

As for countywide issues, a .75-mill renewal levy to support local senior citizen services and facilities, as well as a 10-year, one-mill replacement levy for the local 317 Board, were both approved. The senior levy passed with 71 percent voting for it and 29 percent against; while the 317 Board levy passed with 63 percent voting in favor and 37 percent against.

Earl Cecil, executive director of the 317 Board, said that the levy that's being replaced goes back to 1991 and was first approved as a replacement levy in 2001. It will now be in place for another 10 years.

Mike Turner, executive director of United Seniors for Athens County, said that the senior levy was first passed in 1987 and has been approved by Athens County voters every five years since then. It will now be in place for another five years.

On Wednesday morning, Wiehl said he'd like to thank the voters of the city of Athens.

"I think (the results) show that they appreciate what I'm doing and they like what I'm doing," he said. "As for what I plan to do in the future, it's more of the same, which is to operate the city as best as possible, grow the city as best as possible. Infrastructure of course is one of the primary (areas of emphasis)."

Wiehl encouraged voters to stay engaged.

"It's democracy but it's also more than voting," he said. "It's helping your neighbor and building a community."

Morris congratulated Wiehl on his victory and said that he has no plans to run for elected office again, either in the city of Athens or countywide.

"My viewpoint is not well-received in town, and I got that message," he said.

Over in Athens' Third Ward, Papai said Wednesday that she is excited about being elected.

"I really want to serve, and (the voters) are obviously giving me the hands-down that they want me to serve," she said. "I'm really glad that I've gotten this opportunity. R.J. was a good opponent, and I'm glad that he decided to run It's good to have somebody to help clarify the issues."

She said her plans at this point are to figure out her role on council and which committees she will be involved with.

"We'll just have to see how that all plays out," she said. "I think people are pretty clear on their understanding of the things that are important to me."

Sumney on Wednesday did not offer much comment on the election results.

"Congratulations to her," he said, declining further comment.

The results for the city of Athens reveal that for the next two years, at least every sitting elected official within the city is a Democrat. The new terms begin on Jan. 1, 2012.


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