It’s déjà vu all over again in Farmington Hills, where voters on Tuesday returned former mayor Vicki Barnett to city government.
Barnett, who is also a former Democratic state representative, won a two-way race for mayor, defeating council member Richard Lerner by more than 1,500 votes. She’ll serve a two-year term. Lerner will leave city government at the end of his council term.
Current mayor Ken Massey, a biomedical scientist and consultant, topped a field of six council candidates, including declared write-in Theresa Rich, to win a four-year council seat. Retiree Jackie Boleware and registered nurse Mary Ellen Newlin also picked up four-year terms, each with just over 16 percent of the vote.
Rounding out the field were consultant T. R. Carr (15.91%) and attorney Danette Duron-Willner (14.39%). More than 4,000 write-in votes were reported in Oakland County’s unofficial results, it’s likely the vast majority went to Rich.
Barnett admitted to being a little surprised by her win.
”When you run for election, you never know how voters will react,” she said. “I’ve always run on integrity, honesty, forward thinking, and future planning. That resonated with the community.”
Barnett attributes her success to hard work and support from a team that included Newlin, Boleware, Rich, and Duron-Willner.
“We are a group of women who know that nice matters,” she said. “It’s time to end the vitriol that’s trickling down into local politics. People want to know their voices are heard. They want (electeds) to check their partisanship at the door and work toward positive solutions.”
Massey said during his terms as mayor, he tried to be nonpartisan, and he stressed the nonpartisan nature of the council during his campaign.
“We need to make sure council behaves in a nonpartisan way,” he said. “It’ll be up to Vicki to make sure that happens… I’m going to trust her experience will get her there.”
Massey, who served on council from 2003 to 2015, said being already tied to the city may have given him an edge, but “what worked for me was sharing the record of what I’ve done for the community… We’ve started a number of initiatives, and I want to continue to serve.”
That includes fulfilling promises made with the new roads millage, ensuring the Harrison High community center project comes in on time and, hopefully, under budget, maintaining the city’s AAA bond rating, and ensuring public safety and public works departments have the resources they need, he said.
Newlin, who also ran in 2017, said the support she’s received from the group of women candidates “probably made a difference” this time around. She was the only Farmington Hills candidate to file a finance reporting waiver, agreeing to raise and/or spend less than $1,000. Newlin said she spent around $300.
“I am so very shocked,” she said of her success. “I like to say I’m just your real, everyday person on council.”
Having won her seat by a fairly narrow margin, Newlin believes “every person you touch makes a difference.” As she looks toward her first term, she’s most concerned about attracting young people and, in particular, families to Farmington Hills.
During her campaign, Newlin said, “I would walk for hours and not see a single child out there… We need to market the city better.”