Farms voters select Theros as new mayor

By: Julie Snyder | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 14, 2017

 Patti Theros, the wife of Grosse Pointe Farms mayoral candidate Louis Theros, campaigns for her husband and passes out literature to voters in the City Hall parking lot Nov. 7.

Patti Theros, the wife of Grosse Pointe Farms mayoral candidate Louis Theros, campaigns for her husband and passes out literature to voters in the City Hall parking lot Nov. 7.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — In the city’s first contested mayoral election since 2003, voters selected longtime City Councilman Louis Theros over fellow City Councilman Joe Ricci by a margin of roughly 2-1.

Theros, a lawyer who has been on the council for the last 16 years and serves as chair of the Budget and Audit Committee, received 1,996 votes while Ricci, a retired auto dealership owner who has been on the council for the last five years, received 977 votes, according to unofficial counts available at press time.

Both candidates were running for the seat vacated by incumbent Mayor James Farquhar, who announced earlier this year that he wasn’t seeking re-election to that position. Farquhar did, however, run for — and win — a seat on the City Council.

“I feel pretty good,” Theros said on election night after learning that he’d won the hotly contested race. “I’m appreciative of the citizens of Grosse Pointe Farms for allowing me to continue to serve on the council.”

Theros’ council seat had been up in November, and if he hadn’t been elected mayor, he would no longer be an elected leader in the Farms. Ricci’s term on the council doesn’t expire until November 2019, so he’ll continue to serve in that capacity.

“I look forward to hitting the ground running,” said Theros, noting that immediate issues the council needs to address include sewer system improvements in the Inland District. Soon — likely in December or January — Theros said, the council will need to start discussing what to do to prevent future basement sewage backups.

“The cost of the project will be examined in the next three to six months,” Theros said.

About 20 years ago, for the purposes of a sewer separation project, the Farms was split into two districts, with Ridge Road as the rough dividing line: The 880 acres from Ridge to Lake Shore Road constituted the Lakeside District, and the 907 acres west of Ridge constituted the Inland District. Circa 1999, the formerly combined storm and wastewater sewage lines were separated in the Lakeside District, which freed up some capacity in the remaining combined sewer system.

The steep price tag prevented the city from separating its entire sewer system 20 years ago; in 2011, engineers from Hubbell, Roth and Clark said that the cost to separate the Inland District circa 1999 was approximately $28 million, even without disconnecting all of the home footing drains.

Ricci said he was happy to see that so many residents — almost 3,000 overall — cast ballots in this local election, and that there was more than one candidate running for mayor this election cycle, giving voters a choice.

“I look forward to continuing the work and listening to the residents,” Ricci said after election results were announced Nov. 7. “I’m excited about the future. … It was a spirited campaign.”

Ricci, who last year started holding monthly coffee hours to meet with residents and discuss issues of concern, said he plans to continue those meetings.

“I met so many excellent residents in our community,” he said of his campaigning efforts, which also took him door-to-door. “You can’t put a price on that (experience).”

For Grosse Pointe Farms residents whose polling precinct is City Hall, casting a ballot was no easy task the afternoon of Election Day. A combination of DTE Energy crews working on a gas main project and a contractor working on a house in the block of Kerby Road where City Hall is located led to temporary closures of that block and an inability to access the City Hall parking lot at times.

Ricci, who was campaigning outside City Hall at that time, said that the projects weren’t ideal for Election Day.

“I’ve directed more traffic than asked for votes,” joked Ricci, who helped to wave cars into the municipal lot or around work vehicles.

Farms administrators voiced their concerns about the work as well, which eventually seemed to result in the departure of the DTE crews.

“There’s never a good time for construction,” Public Service Director Terry Brennan said of the gas main project on Election Day.

Also campaigning at City Hall during the afternoon of Election Day — albeit in the parking lot — was Theros’ wife, Patti Theros. She came prepared with mints, water, and hand and toe warmers for the volunteers working on her husband’s campaign.

“We’re trying to get everyone involved,” she said, noting that poll volunteers included the couple’s youngest son and some of his friends.

She was impressed by the strong voter turnout that she and other volunteers noticed.

“It’s been very steady for an off-year election,” Patti Theros said. “People are coming out.”

Farms resident Shawn Coyle, who cast his ballot at City Hall, said he felt that water and sewer work — including sewer separation for the Inland District — should be the top priority for the new mayor and council. He also said the Farms needs to make sure it’s attractive to new young residents, noting that Grosse Pointe Park has its own residents-only movie theater, and the City has shopping in the Village, while the Farms’ Hill business district is largely made up of offices and financial institutions.

“The Farms demographic is changing,” Coyle said. “What are we doing to entice younger families to come to the Farms? We just need some energy to bolster our city.”

Just over 35 percent of the city’s 8,452 registered voters — 2,995 — cast ballots in this election.