Candidates play waiting game for final HR council spot

Lauren Picard (left) and Nikki Hollatz will have to wait until Nov. 19 to find out the results of the Hood River city Council election.

Lauren Picard (left) and Nikki Hollatz will have to wait until Nov. 19 to find out the results of the Hood River city Council election.

The Hood River City Council will have one new face for sure come January.

Whether there will be two will take some time to sort out.

Mark Zanmiller will be the certain new face after he won election to the council Tuesday night, garnering the second-highest vote total among the four candidates.

The current Parks and Recreation board member and self proclaimed “numbers geek” is excited to get to work on the council come January.

He said that many of the issues facing the city will require clever, collaborative solutions and that “hopefully I can be a part of the cleverness.”

Kate McBride, who was appointed to the council last year to fill the remainder of Ann Frodel’s term, received the most votes with 1,626.

The question over whether there will be a second new face comes from the final two candidates, who are both vying for one spot.

Following the election night count incumbent Laurent Picard leads challenger Nikki Hollatz by four votes, 1,152 to 1,148.

Who won the race will not be known until Nov. 19 when the elections office releases final results.

Elections supervisor Kim Keane said that 138 challenged ballots — where the signature on the ballot is in question — will have to be resolved by Nov. 16.

The county is sending out letters to the voters with the ballots in question, and those voters have until Nov. 16 at 5 p.m. to resolve the challenges.

The elections office is also waiting for ballots to come in from other county election offices.

Oregon voters may drop off their ballots in any county and the ballots will be returned to their home county election office.

Keane said that the practice is not uncommon, particularly for college students or those who work in other counties.

Keane was unsure how many ballots were yet to be returned from other counties, saying that Hood River county elections was being notified by email periodically from other election offices when a batch of ballots was on the way.

While the two candidates watch and wait, neither is prepared to go to Florida-in-2000-esque lengths should they wind up on the wrong side of what figures to stay a narrow margin.

Picard joked that he had a legion of lawyers on his speed dial but then added that in all seriousness that he is “optimistic about the direction of the city right now whether it’s me or Nikki, and I think she would be a great city councilor if she wins the vote.”

Hollatz felt much the same way, saying that she is “comfortable with whatever the outcome will be, and I think the city will be well represented either way.”

The easygoing nature from both candidates reflects what Picard said was a very “congenial” race.

“It was a great race because it wasn’t really much of a race; it was four people who are interested in serving the city,” Picard said. “It was very congenial and very friendly and non-adversarial.”

Both candidates have items they are passionate about and would like to see the city either continue to look at or address in the future, regardless of whether they are on the council.

Picard, who has served on the council since 2005, said the city budget needs to continue to be looked at, particularly money for vehicle procurement for city services.

“We have a way of doing it now but we don’t have the money,” he said.

Hollatz said she would like to be a champion for sustainable and renewable energy use in the city if elected.

Both said the affordable housing issue is one which will need to be addressed.

Hollatz currently serves on the planning commission, and said she would likely continue to do so if the result does not turn out her favor.

And while she may come up just short in her bid for city council this time, expect to see her name in the running again in the future.

“I will continue to serve out my term, and if a seat comes up in the council in the next few years I may decide to run again and then I’d have a better idea of what to do with my campaign,” she said. “I like to be actively involved. Because I don’t work in the community it’s a great way to stay involved.”

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