Four incumbents in Oro Valley were swept out of office in favor of a new mayor and three new council members last week.
Challenger Joe Winfield defeated two-term Mayor Satish Hiremath, a showdown three years in the making after the two men first met during the 2015 recall attempt. With nearly all the votes counted as of print deadline, Winfield bested Hiremath by just over 2,500 votes—pulling in nearly 8,875 votes to Hiremath’s 6,287.
Just below the mayoral contest on the ballot, fellow challengers Melanie Barrett, Joyce Jones-Ivey and Josh Nicolson each secured a seat on the dais after defeating incumbent councilmembers Mary Snider, Joe Hornat and Lou Waters.
Barrett, who first became involved with the town as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, earned the greatest number of votes in the council race. Breaking 20 percent of the vote, Barrett pulled in just over 8,500 votes. Jones-Ivey, a relatively new resident in the town, came in second with roughly 8,100 votes, or about 19 percent. Nicolson, who like Barrett, represents the town’s younger demographic (both are 36), pulled roughly 7,800 votes, or 18 percent.
Known for her extensive involvement with the community’s youngest residents through a variety of town- and community-sponsored programs, councilmember Snider led the now-ousted incumbents with 6,400 votes, or 15 percent. Following was Waters, who rose to fame for his work as a CNN anchor and involvement with the aging community. Waters pulled in roughly 5,700 votes, or about 13 percent. The council’s only military veteran, and a member of the local American Legion post, Hornat came in last with 5,500 votes, totaling about 13 percent.
Winfield said he always knew he would walk away with the victory, but was surprised at the longtime Oro Valley resident was the margin.
“It’s six months of canvassing and going door-to-door, talking with the community,” Winfield said. “I never came away from the canvassing thinking that the community wasn’t looking for a change.”
Barrett shared Winfield’s excitement when she saw the initial numbers released, and said she was humbled by the strong show of support. According to Barrett, the six-month campaign trail included door-to-door campaigns, public meetings and waving many signs, all intended to make contact with as many Oro Valley residents as possible.
Barrett said she is excited to continue meeting with residents one-on-one as a councilmember.
Even though she received the greatest show up support from voters among council candidates, Barrett acknowledged that not everyone voted for her. She said the plan is to serve everyone in town, not just her supporters.
“We think that our town can serve all of its residents, and we want to do that by listening to the residents and providing the amenities and the things to serve them—while keeping the spending under control so their taxes can stay low,” Barrett said.
Hiremath, who was first elected alongside his fellow incumbents in 2010 said that the people have spoken.
“They wanted a new direction, and it will be interesting to see what that direction is,” Hiremath told Tucson Local Media on election night. “We’re coming off of seven years of surplus budgets, being ranked the ‘Safest City in the State of Arizona,’ property values increasing 23 percent on average, great roads. But, we live in a democratic society, and we all have to honor the election process.”
Hiremath said that he sent an email to the Winfield campaign to congratulate him and wish all the new members of council well on their upcoming time in office.
Though he was disappointed in the election results, Hiremath expressed optimism for his own circumstances.
“It is what it is,” he said. “For me, life goes on. Actually, my life gets better.”
Though several thousand voters did not cast ballots in his favor, Winfield said he would also strive to be a mayor for all town residents.
“I am just so pleased, I’m thrilled,” he said. “I think—not to overstate it—I think it’s such a good direction for the town.”
Oro Valley residents were also asked to vote on Prop. 462, or “Home Rule.” The council placed the Local Alternative Expenditures Limitation earlier in the year. The rule allows the town to set its own expenditure limit for the budget. Without a locally set expenditure limit, the town would be required to adhere to a state formula that sets the spending cap much lower.
Prop. 462 passed with more than 8,700 votes in favor and roughly 4,400 votes against.