Mike Reuter appeared to have notched an upset win in Kalama’s three-way mayoral contest Tuesday night, capturing 43 percent of the vote.
Reuter, who serves on the Kalama Planning Commission, was leading Kalama City Councilwoman Rosemary Siipola by 42 votes, according to Tuesday’s election returns.
Reached by phone Tuesday night, Reuter was surprised to hear that he’d won barring a late influx of votes for Siipola.
“I’m very surprised,” he told The Daily News. “It’s been a roller coaster.”
If the results hold, Reuter will win by a plurality, winning less than a majority but outpolling Sippola (37 percent) and write-in Thomas Merz (20 percent). The raw count was 256 for Reuter, 214 for Siipola and 118 for Merz.
Reuter said he had not expected to beat Siipola, a former transportation planner and long-time Kalama resident. “She’s been very well-known and part of the community for a long time, and when I started this I definitely did not think I had a chance,” he said.
Reached by phone, Siipola said she plans to wait for Wednesday’s ballot before conceding.
“I thought it was going to be close and it’s still close,” she said.
Reuter ran as a staunch opponent of the proposed $1.8 billion methanol plant outside the city’s limits, although it’s not clear how his stated opposition toward the project will affect its progress. The city has no legal authority over the siting of the plant, which would be located outside the city on Port of Kalama property.
Merz declared his write-in candidacy after the August primary and faced eligibility questions about his length of residency.
Reuter will take over for departing Mayor Pete Poulsen, who led the city for the past 16 years.
In a way, the mayor’s race represented a referendum on the city’s proposed plan for a new police station, which was soundly rejected by 61 percent of voters Tuesday.
The plan, known as Proposition 1, would have raised $2.2 million in revenue through increased property taxes to build a new emergency response building on a 25,000-square-foot site at Maruhn Park.
A number of community members had expressed dismay at the project’s price tag and site-selection process. Reuter said Tuesday that he already has other locations in mind that were not available when the city first began the planning process.
“I want to go through all of these new options that weren’t available at that time,” he said.
Kalama’s police force has endured cramped, unsafe working conditions in its temporary headquarters at the Community Building on Elm Street since the city’s downtown flooded in December 2015.
The three-way mayoral race and big-ticket ballot measure gave Kalama the highest turnout rate in the county, with 41 percent voter participation, according Tuesday’s midday ballot count.
Kalama School Board
Susan Dennis-Langham won election to the Kalama School Board Tuesday with 60 percent of the vote. Dennis-Langham was appointed to the Kalama School Board this summer after her opponent, Bruce Rader, abruptly stepped down from his seat.
Rader had said he would serve if re-elected, but he was losing to Dennis-Langham by 20 percentage points Tuesday night.