COLUMBIANA - For the first time in seven years a Republican was chosen as mayor in Columbiana.
One-term councilman Bryan Blakeman took the seat from David Spatholt in Tuesday night's general election by a small margin, according to complete but unofficial results.
The race was close for most of the night, with Spatholt ahead of Blakeman for Columbiana County voters at one point, but the councilman edged ahead in the end with 1,040 votes from Columbiana and Mahoning County residents.
Spatholt garnered 962 votes in both counties and this election marked the first time the independent was challenged for the position he was appointed to after Republican Lowell Schloneger retired as mayor seven years ago. Schloneger is currently on council.
Blakeman has said he decided to run for mayor because he fulfilled all of his campaign promises as councilman.
On Tuesday he said, "I would like to thank the people of Columbiana for the trust that they have just given me and I think that it was a very clean race on both sides. I was happy to see that it stayed on issue and didn't become personal. I respect Dave (Spatholt) for that, and his family, and I wish them the best but I'm obviously very excited for what just transpired."
He went on to say that although it was a "very slim margin" he believes the turnout shows residents are ready for what he wants to bring to the table, and that is accountability.
"That was the message that I have spoken about in this race more than anything else. Not accountability in a negative way, but just so the people of Columbiana know what is going on with their tax dollars," he said.
He will take the four-year mayoral position the first Tuesday in January, and is prepared to "take things in a different direction."
That direction will come through more foresight into the city's planning and coming up with new ideas for growth, he said.
As mayor he will automatically have a seat on the city's planning commission.
"I really appreciate the vote of confidence in the people who put me there and I look forward to serving them well," he said.
Meanwhile, he will continue to fulfill the remainder of his term on council.
A message left with Spatholt was not returned.
Columbiana and Mahoning County voters also chose three new members of council, with Dan Bekar earning 1,103 votes, Dick Simpson earning 1,060 and Ted Souder earning 1,070, according to the complete but unofficial results.
In January the men will fill the seats currently held by Tom Ferguson, James King and Bryan Blakeman, whose four-year terms expire Dec. 31.
Ferguson did not run for re-election and King lost his seat in the race by earning the least votes, 604.
Planning commission member Crystal Siembida-Boggs also ran for a seat but missed out with 817 votes.
Simpson was the only new candidate for council with previous political experience, including serving 16 years as mayor and 18 years as a member of the planning commission.