A Grand River sign directs voters to turn to get to Freedom Gateway Church, Precinct 2, to vote Nov. 7 in Farmington.

A Grand River sign directs voters to turn to get to Freedom Gateway Church, Precinct 2, to vote Nov. 7 in Farmington.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Farmington voters pick incumbent, newcomers at the polls

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published November 15, 2017

 Resident Evelyn Kieronski casts her votes.

Resident Evelyn Kieronski casts her votes.

Photo by Deb Jacques

FARMINGTON  — The city of Farmington has a familiar face and two new ones on City Council after the Nov. 7 election.

The unofficial election results from the Oakland County Elections Division show that voters selected newcomer Maria Taylor, with 1,567 votes, or 26.90 percent, followed by incumbent Mayor Bill Galvin, with 1,278 votes, or 21.94 percent. Newcomer Joe LaRussa came in with 1,256 votes, or 21.56 percent.

Longtime Councilman Greg Cowley received 628 votes, or 10.78 percent; longtime fellow Councilman Jeff Scott received 1,075 votes, or 18.45 percent. A total of 5,826 people voted.

The two highest-vote getters, Taylor and Galvin, earned four-year terms; LaRussa earned a two-year term.

Taylor, 26, is a news editor, a Governor Warner Mansion volunteer, a Preservation Farmington co-founder and a community activist. Galvin, 50, was appointed to City Council in 2011 and was elected to City Council in 2013. He is a member of the Commission on Aging, the South Oakland County Mayors Association, the Southwestern Oakland County Cable Commission and F2H Fit, a health initiative.

LaRussa, 41, an engineer, said that his campaign was about hard work and trying to raise awareness about his platform, especially as a newcomer.

“I was the name that nobody knew, so I really needed to get out there and make people aware that they had a choice, and that I felt that I was one of the candidates that should prevail in the election,” said LaRussa, who has lived in the city for 12 years with his family.

He added that he visited the city’s six precincts, knocked on 1,121 doors and spoke to 637 people at their homes.

Galvin expressed his thoughts via email about his re-election. 

“I am honored to be re-elected to Farmington’s City Council for another four years,” he said. “I look forward to serving Farmington with the new council members.”

He added that he talks about stewardship as a locally elected official. 

“As the elder statesmen of this new council, I hope to demonstrate that we are stewards entrusted as caretakers with accountability to serve our community,” he said. “The first step in this process of stewardship will be an organizational meeting.”

He said the City Council will appoint the mayor from among City Council members for a two-year term. 

“It has been a rewarding experience to fulfill the mayoral duties for Farmington since 2013. However, it is time to engage another council member with that figurehead leadership role. It is another exciting part of our democratic process here in Farmington.” 

Taylor, the youngest on the City Council, said that she is ready to lead.

“I am still getting used to the fact that I am a legit City Council member now,” she said, adding that her campaign took her to the people.

“I knocked about 2,500 doors, to my best estimate, and I talked to people. … I asked people what issues were important to them; I listened and took notes,” she said, adding that a walkable, family-oriented community; a fun, active downtown; and city services are topics that resonated with people.

LaRussa said different neighborhoods had different points of concern. Many in the central business district talked about parking; people in outlying neighborhoods discussed “less sexy topics,” like roads, water bills, taxes, parks upkeep and new services for residents. 

He added that the Maxfield Training Center redevelopment was also discussed.

LaRussa said that social media networking on Facebook with fellow candidate Taylor is the very thing Farmington stands for: collaboration. He said that people had questions for either candidate, and if one felt a question was a better fit for the other to answer, he or she would refer the voters to the other’s Facebook page.

“I think it speaks to the spirit that we have in Farmington of collaborating for a small town … and we like to make sure that everybody is talking to the right people,” he said.

Taylor said that social media somewhat played a role in her campaign.

“I think that door-to-door is definitely effective here in Farmington,” she said. “But through social media, yes, several people ... did say, ‘I found you on social media or I read about what you posted,’ so that was really interesting to me.” 

LaRussa, who said that he is looking forward to the future and is grateful to serve, said that his first plan of business is to figure out how to execute the promises that he made in the campaign.

“I promised to use my technical expertise to engage these conversations about development and redevelopment in the city,” he said, adding that as a professional engineer, he feels that he has to use those skills to help Farmington. 

LaRussa and his wife have a 10-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son. Before that, they lived in Northville for a year, then decided to come to the city.

“We were looking for a place to put down roots, and Farmington prevailed — for us it was a choice about we wanted an established community,” he said, adding that they picked a place with history behind it, with strong schools and with a strong community spirit. “That is what drove us to choose Farmington.”

Taylor, who has lived in the city for 16 years, said that she represents a third of the city — according to a Southeast Michigan Council of Governments study —  as a millennial renter who does not have children.

“I think that we are trying to appeal to a new generation of Farmington,” she said, adding that some detractors felt that she was unqualified because she is young and a renter. “Those are exactly the kinds of folks that we should have represent us.”

Taylor added that her first order of business includes getting insight from the current administration on how to help the city and “what it takes to be a good council member.”

She added that she plans to learn more from an upcoming goal-setting meeting.

“I will bring up some of the input I have gotten from the people I have talked to door-to-door,” she said.

At the City Council’s first meeting following the election, the council will elect one of its members to serve as mayor and another as mayor pro tem, according to City Clerk Sue Halberstadt.

Halberstadt said that they will elect the mayor at the organizational meeting, which was scheduled for Nov. 13, after press time.

She said that the election turnout was typical of comparable elections.

Turnout was at 32 percent. Voter turnout was 28 percent in 2015.

Halberstadt said that there was an uptick in voters under 60 years old.

“The population under the age of 60 were more engaged this year,” she said, adding that she attributes that to Taylor running for office. “She definitely engaged the community, and I think they responded, and we had active campaigns unlike we’ve seen in the past, and it is good.”

Halberstadt said that it was pretty ordinary at the polls, a “relatively quiet day.”

She said that the new voting equipment, Verity voting system, made things flow smoothly.

“The biggest deal of the election was the new equipment,” she said, adding that voting officials “loved” the equipment, and the election results were transmitted before 8:30 p.m.; typically, the results come in between 9 and 9:30 p.m.

Halberstadt added that the election was unique because two incumbents, Cowley and Scott, were replaced.

“I don’t know if that has ever happened in my lifetime here — that was significant,” she said.

Scott said in an email statement that it has been an “honor and privilege” to serve on the Farmington City Council.  

“I love this city and feel Farmington is currently positioned well for the future. I hope the new council can hit the ground running, since there are still immediate financial issues which need to be addressed,” he said, adding that he wishes the new council well and hopes the members can all work together to keep Farmington moving forward. 

He said he will still be a strong presence in the community.

“I am not going anywhere. I will still be a part of the community, but now I’ll be able to spend a lot more time with my family and focus on my business.”

Cowley did not respond by press time.

Halberstadt added that some residents are looking for a different direction.

“We’ve got two brand-new council members, and I think it is going to be exciting going forward,” Halberstadt said.

For more information, go to ci.farmington.mi.us.