City Councilman Adam Stockford was elected mayor on Nov. 7, carrying 56 percent of the vote and defeating incumbent Scott Sessions.
Hillsdale residents also voted on four open city council seats. City Councilmen Will Morrisey and Bill Zeiser ran unopposed, holding their seats in Wards 2 and 3. Ray Briner, a senior credit analyst at County National Bank, took Ward 4’s seat and write-in candidate Greg Stuchell surged ahead in Ward 1, taking the seat Stockford vacated in order to run for mayor.
“I am excited, humble, and grateful for the public support,” Stockford said.
City Clerk Stephen French said voter turnout was abnormally high, more than double what it has been in years past. Hillsdale normally sees 7 to 8 percent voter turnout in local elections, but this year more than 17 percent of the city voted.
French said voter turnout could the candidates’ focus on the local economy could have contributed to it.
“The city has had contested elections before, so I’m not sure what was different about this one,” French said. “Both candidates did good campaigning.”
Stockford’s campaign focused on growing the local economy. He said this issue resonated with voters.
“All they have to do is look around them to see how it’s going. This election was a reflection of that,” Stockford said.
Stockford said he plans on getting right to work and that his campaign promises were not just promises. He said he wants to begin by shifting the city’s economic focus to an industrial one.
“Everything I said during the campaign I meant,” he said.
Hillsdale resident Natasha Crall said Stockford will bring a strong, much-needed presence to the city.
“Mayor Stockford is a man with a vision for the future of this city, and his experience will serve the city well,” she said. “I am excited to see what his leadership brings to the table.”
Zeiser said he is looking forward to working with Stockford because he will be a proactive, positive, public face for the City of Hillsdale. Having worked with Stockford on the city council, Zeiser said the mayor-elect brings new ideas to help grow Hillsdale’s economy.
“Stockford is uniquely situated,” Zeiser said. “He understands what it takes to bring employers in and get people jobs.”
French said he wasn’t surprised by the election results, but Stuchell’s victory in Ward 1 did shock many residents — including Stuchell.
“It was a huge surprise,” Stuchell said. “I thought my advantage would be a low voter turnout, but it was so high that I didn’t think I had a chance.”
He said write-in campaigns are nearly impossible at a state and federal level, but his victory proved that citizens were looking for another option. Stuchell entered the race six weeks before the election, and described his campaign as “neighbors talking to neighbors.”
“I only spent $200 on the campaign total. I had cards made with a picture of my family on them, and we went door to door talking to people,” Stuchell said.
Stuchell’s decision to run for city council was last-minute. The city council’s initiative to allow medical marijuana dispensaries downtown — unanimously rejected in a Sept. 18 meeting — motivated him to get involved.
“It’s a moral issue,” Stuchell said. “That’s not the kind of business you want in town. I knew I had to do something.”
Some residents have voiced concerns about Stuchell’s victory.
“I am saddened to see someone who has never shown any interest at all in local politics until the marijuana initiative came up get elected,” Hillsdale resident Penny Swan said. “There is a huge amount of knowledge that goes into being on council and not something that should be done on whim.”
Stockford said that he looks forward to working with Stuchell and the other elected city council members. He said he intends on appointing a mayor pro-tempore as well as assigning new committee appointments.
“It’s time to get right down to business,” Stockford said. “I want the surrounding communities to know the City of Hillsdale is open for business.”