Newly elected councilors will occupy at least four, and likely five, of the seven seats on the Baker City Council when it convenes in early January.
Baker City voters could pick up to six candidates Tuesday and only one among the top six — Jason Spriet — is an incumbent councilor.
The two other incumbents on the ballot — Arvid Andersen and Doni Bruland — were not among the top six finishers out of the 13 candidates on the ballot.
The gap between Andersen, in seventh place, and Heather Sells at sixth was 29 votes, based on unofficial results from the Baker County Clerk’s office. County Clerk Stefanie Kirby said it’s not clear how many ballots could still be counted.
A total of 46 ballots from residents eligible to vote in the City Council race were not accepted because they hadn’t been signed or otherwise were challenged, Kirby said. The clerk’s office has notified those voters, who will have a chance to confirm their ballots, she said.
Kirby also expects an unknown number of ballots, but probably not more than a couple dozen, to arrive that voters left in a drop box in another county, which is allowed.
She is required by law to certify the election results within 20 days. Once she’s done that she will send the results to the city.
Kerry McQuisten received the most votes, with 2,653, according to unofficial results from the Baker County Clerk’s office.
The rest of the top five: Shane Alderson (2,406 votes), Spriet (2,324), Johnny Waggoner Sr. (2,153), and Joanna Dixon (1,847).
The newly elected councilors will be sworn in at the Council’s first meeting in 2021, likely the second Tuesday of January.
As the top three, McQuisten, Alderson and Spriet will serve 4-year terms. Waggoner, Dixon and Sells, presuming she retains her lead, will serve 2-year terms.
The other candidates on Tuesday’s ballot are Betty J. Milliman (1,546 votes), Gretchen Stadler (1,396), Annie Croucher (1,218), Damon Rose (1,123) and James C. Thomas (1,076).
Typically, just four of the seven Council seats are on the ballot. But this year there were six openings because two councilors resigned earlier this year and their replacements appointed by remaining councilors, including Spriet, are serving temporary terms that end Dec. 31.
Among the seven current councilors, Lynette Perry was the only one whose seat wasn’t up for election. Perry was elected in 2018 to a 4-year term.
Two other current councilors, Mayor Loran Joseph and Randy Schiewe, couldn’t run for re-election due to the term limits clause in the city charter.
With up to five new councilors slated to take office in 2 months, the current slate of councilors is moving ahead with plans to hire a new city manager before the end of the year to replace Fred Warner Jr., who is retiring.
The city manager is in effect the city’s CEO, responsible for managing, hiring and firing city employees, and overseeing the day-to-day operations. Councilors, meanwhile, have the sole authority to hire and fire the city manager.
In her response to the Herald’s voters’ guide questionnaire, McQuisten wrote that she would prefer the current councilors defer the city manager hiring, leaving that task for the new councilors who take office in January.
On Oct. 13 the City Council announced three finalists for the city manager job. They are Steve Ashworth of Alpine, Wyoming; Jonathan Cannon of Saluda, North Carolina; and Scott McClure of Monmouth.
The candidates are scheduled to arrive in Baker City on Wednesday, Nov. 11. On Thursday, Nov. 12, they will tour city facilities with Warner in the morning and afternoon.
The city plans to have “meet and greets” between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Nov. 12, at three sites to be announced, where residents can meet the candidates and ask questions.
People attending will be required to wear masks, and each candidate will spend 30 to 45 minutes at each of the three sites, said Robin Nudd, the city’s human resources director.
In other local races Tuesday, Haines Mayor James Brown won re-election against Brian Pound. Brown received 130 votes, and Pound 91.