Ontario contractor Riley Hill will be the next mayor of Ontario. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)
ONTARIO – Voters elected Riley Hill to the city’s top political post and sent several new faces to city council, based on preliminary results from late Tuesday night.
As of 11:15 p.m., Hill built a commanding lead with 1,109 votes while candidate Billy Carter collected 777 votes. Marty Justus had 507 votes while Frank Griffith amassed 245 votes.
Hill vowed in the run-up to the election that he would push for more transparency in city government and will continue to support vocational training and education for local youth. The longtime Ontario businessman also touted his experience as a key reason voters should elect him. Hill is a member of the city planning and zoning commission and helped create a local program, Poverty to Prosperity, that promotes vocational training.
“I am happy about it,” said Hill.
He said he wasn’t surprised at the outcome.
“I thought I would win or I wouldn’t have run. I wouldn’t have run if I didn’t think I had more experience than the others,” said Hill.
He said he is eager to get started on his job as mayor.
“I am looking forward to working with our other legislators and schools and the county court to try to bring something good for this community,” said Hill.
Carter said the voters had spoken.
“I was in it to win it obviously and if I had won I would have done my best to represent the citizens of Ontario. But I am good with whatever the citizens decide,” said Carter.
Griffith said he was surprised he collected fewer votes than the other candidates.
“I thought I would do better than that,” said Griffith.
Mayoral candidate Marty Justus was unavailable Tuesday night for comment.
Voters also elected Michael Braden and Dan Capron to the city council Tuesday night. Branden held a firm lead with 1,272 votes while Capron had 965 votes.
A third council seat was too close to call based on the 11:15 p.m. tally. Just four votes separated council candidates Thomas Jost and Freddy Rodriguez. Jost collected 921 votes while Rodriguez logged 917 votes.
Capron and Jost sought to retain their positions on the council. Capron was elected to the council in 2017 while Jost was appointed to complete the term of Tessa Winebarger, who resigned to continue her education.
Of the other council candidates Tuesday night, Cydney Cook had 732 votes while Eddy Thiel accumulated 668 votes and KyLee Aguiar had 673 votes.
Braden, a newcomer, said he was eager to start as councilman.
“It feels wonderful and I know it is a lot of responsibility and there is always a little bit of a gut check but I am thankful,” said Braden.
Capron said he wants to focus on economic development.
“To get business and housing, that is what this town needs. Hopefully Riley can help with that,” said Capron.
Jost did not return a call for comment Tuesday night.
Mayor Ron Verini said Tuesday night that he was “thrilled” with the outcome of the election - especially the race for his job.
“There were qualified people in there but Riley Hill, being run on the conservative ticket and the possibility of marijuana coming into the community gives a checks and balance to the whole system and I think that is extremely important,” said Verini.
He said the decision by voters to elect Capron, Braden and possibly Jost showed they “understood the importance of knowledge on the council which I think is very, very positive.”
Results are not final. County election officials will continue to count ballots early into the morning.
The new mayor and council candidates will be sworn into office Jan. 1.
Verini said voters have chosen a new path toward the future.
“And, obviously, it all now rests in the hands of the folks our community voted for,” said Verini.