Bill Widmer, who campaigned on promises of improving communications between the town of Atherton and residents and establishing financial stability and accountability in town government, was the top vote-getter in yesterday's City Council election, with incumbents Jerry Carlson and Jim Dobbie coming in second place and third place, respectively.
A member of the town's Audit Committee and an active participant in its Finance Committee, Mr. Widmer next month will replace Councilman Charles Marsala, who did not seek re-election.
Challenger Cary Wiest came in fourth place.
With all six precincts reporting but with provisional and a portion of absentee ballots still to be counted, the unofficial results of the election are: Mr Widmer, 1,687 votes (32.1 percent); Mr. Carlson, 1,467 votes (27.9 percent); Mr. Dobbie, 1,253 votes (23.8 percent); and Mr. Wiest, 856 votes (16.3 percent).
Mr. Widmer has extensive experience in finances and management, and he said he plans to apply those skills to the challenge of balancing the town's budget, which now is saddled with a $1 million structural deficit.
His success at the polls has something to do with the fact that he "walked around a lot and met a lot of people," he said this morning (Nov. 3). But, he added, "I think my slogan, 'Expect More,' really hit the mark with people. They do expect more, and some people really want a fresh approach.
"With my qualifications, I can bring a fresh approach, but it will be a measured fresh approach."
One "fresh approach" may be that he intends to keep his campaign promises, among them, to be a "budget-minded, independent, listening leader," he said. He also reaffirmed his commitment to maintaining an active website that will include town-related news to keep residents informed, and his voting record as a council member.
Mr. Wiest could not be reached for comment for this article, but on his website, he posted the following message: "I am thankful we were able to bring some issues to light through the democratic process. However, ultimately the voters decided to leave things status quo, which is unfortunate."
Among members of a sometimes polarized council, Mr. Dobbie now often finds himself holding a minority position along with Mayor Kathy McKeithen, while Mr. Carlson is considered by many to be the swing vote on contentious issues -- more often than not swinging toward the majority position.
In addition to the town's budget-related headaches, the council faces a number of challenges over the next two years, beginning with the hiring of a new town manager and a town attorney. City Manager Jerry Gruber resigned his post last month. An interim manager, Nadine Levin, is now overseeing Town Hall.
With a new council seated next month, the town will be seeking proposals from attorneys to provide legal services. Current attorney Wynne Furth has expressed interest in retaining the position.
The town also is the defendant in several lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in damages for complaints ranging from alleged police department misconduct and building department negligence, to improperly charging developers road-impact fees.