Mike Skidmore smiled as he watched the returns come in Tuesday night on the big board in the Franklin County Clerk’s Office.
“Is that a two or a seven?” Skidmore asked, drawing a smile from Janet Paddock as the county clerk logged the final vote totals on the board shortly after 8:30 p.m.
The number was a seven.
Skidmore collected 799 votes to win the Ottawa City Commission race. Incumbents Linda Reed and Jeff Richards earned 768 votes and 644 votes, respectively, to join Skidmore in claiming the three open seats on the commission.
Raquel “Rocky” Fleer finished fourth with 322 votes, followed by Helen Hood with 233 votes.
As the top two vote-getters, Skidmore and Reed will serve four-year terms, while Richards earned a two-year term on the commission.
More than two dozen people crowded near the doorway of Paddock’s office at the Franklin County Courthouse, 315 S. Main St., Ottawa, to watch the returns come in. About 15 percent — 2,608 — of the county’s 17,206 registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election.
“My first emotion was that I was humbled by the number of votes I received,” Skidmore said. “I’m very honored that the voters elected me to represent them, and I’m looking forward to serving on the commission.”
Skidmore will begin his term at the commission’s 7 p.m. April 17 meeting as five-time mayor Gene Ramsey steps off the commission. Ramsey, a commissioner since 1994, did not seek re-election.
“My big push will be for economic development — that’s my passion,” Skidmore said of his objectives. “I think we need to do all we can to promote economic development. Ottawa’s geographic location puts it in an optimum position, and I think we will see more businesses start looking at Ottawa.”
The new BNSF intermodal rail hub in the nearby Edgerton-Gardner area could spell an economic boost to Ottawa, Skidmore said, adding that the community needed to be prepared to embrace the potential growth the facility could bring to Ottawa.
With the intermodal a 20-minute drive from Ottawa, “I think more people will start looking at Ottawa for houses, rentals, apartments and eventually retail,” Skidmore, a vice president and branch manager with Goppert State Service Bank in Ottawa and Pomona, said. “You don’t need to have the intermodal in your backyard to benefit from it. I think it will be a real plus for Ottawa.”
Skidmore said he thought any of the five city commission candidates in the race would have done a good job of representing the residents’ best interests.
“I think the city would have been in good hands with any three of the five on the city commission,” Skidmore said. “I appreciate everyone who came out to run.”
Candidate Hood said she thought it was a good campaign and said she was glad it featured five people who wanted to serve on the commission, rather than having a field of unopposed candidates.
“I’m very passionate about Ottawa,” Hood said, “And I think it’s good to have a lot of people run.”
Hood said she thought the candidates who were elected would serve the community well.
“I think Mike Skidmore will be a great addition to the commission,” Hood said, adding that she also thinks highly of Reed and Richards.
Fleer wished all the elected candidates well in their endeavors to help the city.
“I want to thank all the people who cast votes for me,” she said. “It was greatly appreciated.”
Incumbents Reed and Richards said they were hopeful their re-election Tuesday night was a sign the voters think the city is on the right course.
“I’m looking forward to serving another four years,” Reed said Tuesday night at the courthouse. “I hope the fact that Jeff and I were both re-elected is an indication that the voters are pleased with the direction the city is heading.”
Richards said the city has made streets, sidewalks and services a priority, while lowering taxes.
“We were able to lower the mill levy last year,” Richards said. “And I think people like paying less taxes. I know I do.”
Results are unofficial until the Franklin County Board of Commissioners canvass the votes Monday.