Political newcomer Lori Woods and incumbents Michael Noll and Edward Wilson have won seats on the Signal Hill City Council, according to final election results that were released this morning, March 8.
Noll, who is now entering his sixth term after serving on the council for 20 years, received the most votes, coming away with 17.70 percent of the total vote (633 votes), followed by Woods, a 15-year Signal Hill resident in her first run for a government office, who received 612 votes, or 17.11 percent of the total vote.
In a nail-biting race to the finish for the third council spot, incumbent Wilson, who has been on the council for three terms, ended up winning the council seat, taking in a total of 546 votes, or 15.26 percent of the vote, just 19 votes ahead of incumbent Ellen Ward, who took in a total of 527 votes, or 14.73 percent of the vote.
Ward was followed by: Elizabeth Wise, who received 437 votes, or 12.22 percent of the vote; Bob Mendoza, who took in 429 votes, or 11.99 percent of the vote; and Nancy Sciortino, who came away with 393 votes, or 10.99 percent of the vote.
All three winning candidates were present at the City Council Chamber as city officials and the City’s election services contractor Martin & Chapman counted the remaining 144 provisional and late vote-by-mail ballots. The release of final results was broadcast live on LBReport.com and the Signal Tribune’s Website. After polls closed on election night, the unofficial results, which include absentee ballots and polling-place ballots from the City’s three precincts, were delayed for hours at the City Council Chamber due to a ballot-reading machine experiencing technical errors. The machine, provided by Martin & Chapman, was eventually replaced with a new machine, but the unofficial results still included errors, which was discovered after all ballots were recounted.
“Thank God it’s over,” said Noll, who has declared this will be his last run for council. In a phone interview with the Signal Tribune before the final count, Noll vowed that he would continue efforts to build a new city library and come up with ways to replace redevelopment funds. “We have a lot on our plates,” he said. “We need to get on with our business.”
Wilson, who called the election a “tough, interesting race,” said the final results show that he had a “slow start” in the beginning of his campaign but ended up coming in “strong in the end,” receiving more votes from polling places than absentees.
“I want to thank everyone who was part of my campaign… all the people who contributed… and most importantly the voters for having faith in me and allowing me to have another four years,” Wilson said. “I’m really, really excited about these next four years and in doing my best to represent everyone here in Signal Hill.”
Woods, who came just 21 votes away from Noll’s total, said she suspected the results would stay in line with the unofficial results released on election night. Woods said she plans to now take the “weekend to let it soak all in” and come into City Hall on Monday to find out the next steps.
“I’ve got a really steep learning curve here,” she said. “I’m the rookie and the freshman. But so far the comments from the staff, from the city manager and from the incumbents are encouraging and they are willing to help mentor me. Now the work is just starting.”
Signal Hill City Clerk Kathleen Pacheco is required, under the city’s election code, to conduct a final manual tally, or hand count, of ballots from the largest precinct. That hand count will take place Tuesday, March 12. The official and final election results will be certified during the next City Council meeting, which will be Tuesday, March 19. During that Council meeting, the newly elected councilmembers will be sworn in, and the five-member council will nominate a new mayor and vice mayor.
During the highly contentious, two-month election season that included three candidate forums, a clear divide formed between the three incumbents, who defended their track records after being on the council together for more than a decade, and the four challengers, who pushed for the need for a change in leadership.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Woods said the results show that Signal Hill residents “like consistency,” but “want to be heard.” The mother of four children said she stayed away from “personal attacks” on the incumbents.
“Obviously, [residents] think I can work with the existing council,” Woods said. “New ideas and new thinking and bringing in new blood is good for any organization… that was kind of my platform in walking and talking to people… at the same point, if residents want to see something change, I’m a single vote on a five-person council.”
Ward, who ended up coming just 1 vote away from tying Wilson in the recounted unofficial results, said, “Either way, it’s the will of the city.” She said, “I don’t think the city is going to be hurt, and that’s my main concern.”
Both Woods and Wise noted the increase in voter turnout and credited it to the recent presidential election in November, adding that challengers had hoped to use the rise in voter registrants to their advantage.
According to the final election results, there were a total of 1,308 ballots cast in this year’s city election, which is 21.29 percent of the 6,143 registered voters in Signal Hill that has a population of about 11,000 residents. The voter turnout percentage increased over the city’s last election, which was in March 2011, when 16.64 percent (or 986 voters) of the city’s registered voters at the time (5,923) cast ballots.
Wise, a paralegal, added that the increase in voter turnout could also be attributed to more residents “stepping up” and wanting to be involved in the political process.
“I think all four of us accomplished exactly what we wanted to do, which is wake up the community,” she said. “I think it’s pretty surprising that one of the challengers got as many votes as she did and almost unseated the person that’s been there the longest… I think that says something… I think that’s a wake-up call.”
Sciortino, who added that “it’s not over yet,” said she hopes whomever is elected to the council will “pick up” on issues that were brought up during the campaign to make “Signal Hill a better place for everybody.”
The following is the final election results with total votes and percentages of the total vote as released by the City:
Ellen Ward: 527 votes, 14.73 percent
Lori Woods: 612 votes, 17.11 percent
Edward Wilson: 546 votes, 15.26 percent
Elizabeth Wise: 437 votes, 12.22 percent
Robert Mendoza: 429 votes, 11.99 percent
Nancy Sciortino: 393 votes, 10.99 percent
Mike Noll: 633 votes, 17.70 percent