Yelm Mayor JW Foster fended off a spirited challenge by Yelm Councilor Joe DePinto to remain as the Prairie City’s head official for the next four years.
“I’m glad to be able to continue the job of mayor,” Foster said. “It’s been really rewarding and even more so than I thought it would be when I became mayor, it’s become more than a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s who I want to be for the foreseeable future.”
Foster said he looks forward to spending weeks only focusing on the mayoral role and not having to worry about campaigning. He said campaigning while being mayor was “exhausting” and he will take the three-day weekend to remember fallen soldiers and get caught up on rest before he and the council “tie things up” before the end of the year.
Since his appointment, Foster said his accomplishments include a changed atmosphere at Yelm City Hall by taking care of the employees and proposing two balanced budgets, and completely restructuring the budget format for 2018.
“The good part of the campaign was that I learned that I’m not in this alone, that I had a lot of people supporting me and I learned that people will tell you what they really want if you take the time to listen to them and I did a lot of listening on the campaign trail and now I can take that to city hall and make it happen,” Foster said.
Foster leads by 53 percent (389 votes) to 47 percent over DePinto (345 votes) with an estimated 200 votes remaining to be counted as of press time. The next count was scheduled at 6 p.m. Wednesday (look for updated numbers on yelmonline.com).
DePinto did not concede the election Tuesday night and quoted baseball legend Yogi Berra as he told his supporters, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” 734 people voted for DePinto or Foster and both parties expect close to 1,000 total votes. There is not a tally of write-in voters, leaving the total number of votes remaining to speculation although DePinto said he still believes there is a “path to victory.”
His optimistic spirit comes from multiple days of doorbelling and calling Yelm residents. DePinto said the recent push will be more noticeable when the second round of results are released on Wednesday evening.
“I put all of my effort into trying to become mayor and that has been my focus and right now I don’t know my next step,” DePinto said. “I’m just going to go back to work tomorrow and stay on the city council and represent the people the best I can.”
Yelm City Council
Longtime Yelm Planning Commissioner Terry Kaminski will be on the council, leading challenger James Blair. Kaminski had 55 percent (388 votes) to 45 percent (317 votes) for Blair.
Yelm Councilor Russ Hendrickson is in a dogfight to retain his seat, leading challenger Cody Colt by a slim two votes. Hendrickson has 336 votes; Colt has 334.
“It feels fantastic to have the support and the respect of the people of Yelm. I am very proud and honored and I will do my utmost to fulfill their expectations.” Kaminski said. “Being on city council has been a dream of mine for many years and the fact that I have been voted on is an honor.”
Kaminski said stepping into the new role will be a learning curve and will look to current city leaders for guidance.
With the initial results showing Kaminski with a 10 percent lead, Blair knew the chances of catching up were slim but remained proud he received 45 percent without any prior political experience. Although Blair didn’t get elected to the city council this year, he said “he’s not going anywhere” and will continue to be involved in the community and local politics.
Blair’s platform was to promote community service and public safety, minimize taxes, ensure local government manages funds efficiently and keep government out of business decisions.
“A lot of the things I have talked about, smaller government and getting the government out of the way and being smart about how they spend the money,” Blair said. “That is 45 percent of the people that agreed with that and that is making a huge statement whether I win or not.”
The race between Colt and Hendrickson could go either way. Colt leads Hendrickson by two votes. Colt said he was a “nervous wreck,” while Hendrickson jokingly said, “I got him right where I want him” when told of the results Tuesday night.
If Colt wins, his first priority is to sit down with the mayor and council to find out what their vision is and where they want to go and how he can contribute. Colt said he wants to find solutions to problems before the issues get out of hand by being proactive.
“I’ve already started to get my life in a situation to where it’s really easy to shift to a council position,” Colt said. “I won’t have any other obligations so I’ll be able to focus a lot more on council so I’m already putting things into place to take the position in January.”
Hendrickson said he will continue to focus on the ongoing maintenance and updating of Yelm’s Water Reclamation Facility, continue to research and improve traffic issues within the city and continue to maintain the sense of community Yelm prides itself on.
For the city of Rainier, Mayor Robert Shaw will return, leading challenger Ron Kemp 59 percent to 41 percent. As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, when the first round of results was posted by the Thurston County Auditor, Shaw had 143 votes compared to Kemp’s 100.
Shaw was appointed by the Rainier City Council when former Mayor Randy Schleis died of unexpected heart complications. Since taking the reins, Shaw is proud to have completed the Tipsoo Loop project and improving Wilkowski Park with a playground and a basketball court that recently broke ground.
The newly elected mayor must propose the 2018 budget and get council approval before the end of the year. Shaw said he is confident that he and City Administrator Charmayne Garrison will get it done.
“I am honored to have the support of the citizens and believe they appreciated my committee’s decision to run a positive campaign,” Shaw said. “I want to thank the entire Rainier council and staff for overwhelming support, we will continue to lead the city of Rainier in a positive direction.”
Both Kemp and Shaw believe their opponent ran dirty campaigns. Shaw believed it was through Kemp that negative opinion pieces were written in the Nisqually Valley News. Kemp denied the claims and said he played no part in the opinion letters. Kemp said Shaw encouraged Linda Johnson, George Johnson and Dennis McVey to write negative opinion letters but Shaw also denied the claims.
Kemp disagreed that Shaw’s campaign was positive and said firing him as building official was political. Kemp said although Shaw recused himself from the vote to terminate Kemp as building official, it was through Shaw’s support of the “good ole boys” that the decision was made.
“He came down on me for running a bad campaign for writing opinions and putting them in the newspaper through surrogates, I didn’t do that,” Kemp said. “I full well know that his surrogates or people he knew supposedly asked him and they did the same thing so I disagree with him about running a clean campaign.”
For the SE Thurston Fire Authority Sub Region 2 Fire Commissioner Position 2, Jeff DeHan is winning handily with 54 percent of the vote over Clint Farmer’s 46 percent.
Kevin Kneeshaw in one of the biggest landslides of the night, beat challenger Yanah Cook 83 percent to 17 percent for the right to be commissioner of Fire Protection District No. 17, Position 3. Joining Kneeshaw is Jody Westling, who won Pos. 4 with 57 percent compared to Alan (Skip) Simmons’ 43 percent.
For Port of Olympia Commissioner District 2, Bill McGregor won reelection with 53 percent of the vote over Bill Fishburn’s 47 percent.
In the other Port of Olympia Commissioner race for District 3, E.J. Zita had a strong showing with 56 percent of the vote over Gigi McClure’s 44 percent.