John Fender, an independent candidate and political newcomer, was elected mayor of Kent with 2,487 votes over incumbent Jerry Fiala, who had 2,058, according to complete but unofficial results from the Portage County Board of Elections.
Fiala had served as mayor since January, when he was appointed to fill the vacancy left when former Mayor Kathleen Chandler was elected county commissioner. Although he will step down as mayor Dec. 31, he will retain his seat on Kent City Council, representing Ward 1.
In the council-at-large race, voters welcomed back former Councilman William Schultz and ushered in new members Michael A. DeLeone and Dan Kamburoff.
DeLeone, a Democrat, was the top vote-getter with 2,272 votes, according to complete but unofficial results from the Portage County Board of Elections. Schultz, who had served 16 1/2 years on council before he was unseated by Aimee Lyle two years ago, was second with 2,120 votes, and Kamburoff, a Republican, was third with 2,025 votes.
Other candidates included Ray Fort, who had 1,657 votes; Louis Perez, with 1,278 votes; William Anderson, with 959 votes; John Gwinn, with 869 votes; and George Donoghue, with 224 votes.
Fender, who is the first independent candidate in recent memory to be elected Kent's mayor, has never been voted into public office. However, he did serve as a principal in the Kent school system for 24 years.
He credited his victory to an aggressive door to door campaign.
"I'm really happy and excited," Fender said. "I think I put a lot of effort into it.
"It's been a fun thing from the standpoint of putting 24 years as a principal into a community of 25,000 and then retiring and still being able to put forth a good effort," he said. "I got to know many families on a first name basis over the years, and I think that helped."
Fiala said he saw the outcome of the election as a message from voters that they wanted him to keep his vote on council.
"Obviously the voters are telling me they want me to continue to be their spokesman and vote for them," he said . "I'm looking forward to working with the new council-at-large people and show them the right way to achieve the vision they have."
DeLeone said his family put a lot of work into helping him win the council race.
"It's nice to hear maybe some people are listening out there," he said. "It's time to listen to what the people want."
He added his fellow candidates were all well-qualified and any of them could have done a good job.
Schultz said he was excited to return to council after a 2-year absence.
"I'm looking forward to working with the new city manager and the new mayor," he said. "I hope to work with the rest of council to create a vision for the city the community can get behind."
Kamburoff, a local farmer and businessman on Fairchild Avenue, became interested in politics when he faced a large assessment for the road reconstruction there. He said he was pleased to see at least one Republican earn a seat on council.
"I'm very happy and pleased," he said. "My goal is to find out the mechanics of council. Nothing is going to change because the issues will present themselves. I intend to jump in feet first and deal with the issues as they are presented."