ELYRIA — From his hospital bed Tuesday, where he is recovering from a heart attack, Councilman Jack Baird filled out an absentee ballot.
“He is recovering, but was alert enough to vote,” said Councilman Garry Gibbs, R-3rd Ward.
If he was concerned that he might need every vote, Baird, 65, needn’t have worried. The Republican at-large member of Council retained his seat, along with Democrat incumbents Mike Lotko, Tom Callahan and Vic Stewart.
The placement of the top four vote-getters included Lotko with 4,766 votes, Baird with 4,557 votes, Callahan with 4,527 votes and Stewart with 4,236 votes, according to unofficial results. Newcomer Chuck Martin, also a Democrat, received 3,976 votes.
Callahan said Martin was a strong competitor, but he is happy he will remain on Council for another two-year term. This will be his fifth term in office.
“I feel like there is still work for me to do. There is always work to do,” he said. “I think for me personally the landlord rental registration program will be on the docket next year.”
While many wondered how the at-large race would end with Baird still recovering in the hospital, it was the 3rd Ward race that was the talk of the evening.
There, Gibbs, who has securely held on to the seat for 20 years, lost to Mark Jessie, the Elyria High School choir director who made his debut electoral run.
The race was close. Jessie won with 925 votes to Gibbs 896 votes, or 51 percent to 49 percent, according to unofficial election results.
“I really thank the residents of the 3rd Ward for supporting me over the years, but it looks like the voters have spoken and are moving in another direction,” Gibbs said once the final votes were in.
Just 29 votes separated the two.
“But I will say that my phone line will always be open. I’ll be here,” he said. “I’m not ready to ride off into the sunset just yet.”
Jessie, who refrained from badmouthing Gibbs throughout the campaign, said he probably won the old-fashioned way. Instead of telling residents what their current representative was not doing, he focused on getting to know all the concerns in the ward and vowing to address them.
“I went door-to-door and hit every house in my ward once and a lot of them twice,” he said. “I had a lot of residents tell me they have never had anyone at their door before. They felt like their voice was not being heard.”
The 3rd Ward, on the city’s southeast side, is full of issues including drainage problems for the residents on South Abbe Road.
“I never intended to go to every door. I thought it would be too much,” Jessie said. “But once I got out there, I knew I had to keep going. Now, I know every neighborhood in the ward and to have that kind of knowledge of the world is invaluable, even if I didn’t win.”
Jessie said such information will help him quickly get up to speed before he takes the oath of office later this year and walks into City Hall ready to work come January.
He will be joined by fellow newcomer Jack Cerra, a Democrat who won the 7th Ward. Current Councilman Jerry McHugh did not run for re-election.
Cerra bested Republican Scott McDonald with 708 votes to McDonald’s 651 votes, according to unofficial results.
“I’m proud to say I will be the voice of the ward,” Cerra said. “I plan to learn as much as I can about the position and the issues. I want to do the best job I can for the people who supported me in my ward.”