Challenger wins spot on Grosse Pointe Woods City Council, incumbent defeated

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 6, 2019

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — The ballots were cast, and the votes were counted.

Two of the three Grosse Pointe Woods City Council incumbents running for reelection were reelected during the general election Nov. 5. Five candidates ran for the three four-year open seats.

According to the unofficial results released from the Wayne County Clerk’s Office, incumbent Michael Koester was the top vote-getter with 2,680 votes, and incumbent Art Bryant received 2,545 votes.

Challenger Kenneth Gafa was elected with the second-highest vote total, 2,548 votes.

Incumbent Richard Shetler Jr., seeking his third term, didn’t receive enough votes to get reelected. He received 2,026 votes. Challenger Seth A. Winterholler garnered the fewest votes with 1,951 and was not elected.

Koester has served two four-year terms on the council, and this will be his third term.

Bryant has served three four-year terms on the council, and this will be his fourth term.

Ted Metry ran unopposed for a four-year term for Grosse Pointe Woods Municipal Court judge and was reelected with 3,792 votes.

“It’s a nice feeling to be in the top three. It’s a privilege to be able to serve this community,” Koester said. “I’m very grateful for the residents entrusting me. I find the inner workings of government enjoyable. I take it very seriously.”

When campaigning, Koester heard from many residents who wanted to know what city officials are doing to keep the city vibrant.

“What are we doing to make sure we’re positioning ourselves for young families to come in, and how can we keep our city as great as it is?” Koester said.

Improving the city’s roads and sewer systems are among the top priorities, and now is not the time to become complacent.

“You’ve got to continue doing a good job,” Koester said. “Residents are going to expect you to do what you’re doing, and more so.”

Gafa is ready for his new role on the Grosse Pointe Woods City Council.

“I’m excited and looking forward to getting into a lot of the important things we’re hoping to do for the city,” Gafa said. “I’d like to see an increase in partnering with our community and business organizations, filling Mack Avenue with viable businesses that will attract people into our city.”

Gafa said that while campaigning, many residents he spoke to were “hoping for more diverse businesses on Mack Avenue.”

Improving roads also is a must.

“Roads have been an issue,” Gafa said. “Road funding was sparse because of the economic downturn. Now the economy has started to return to somewhat of a normalcy; more money has (been) freed up.”

One issue Bryant had been hearing about from residents was the renovations occurring at City Hall since the flooding occurred in March. Bryant said the renovations should be done by the end of the year.

“It’s being worked on and we are on schedule. We’re redesigning the inside of City Hall so it more adequately meets the needs of our citizens,” Bryant said. “When they built the building 50 to 60 years ago, there was no lunchroom for the staff, and there’s now an area for employees to have lunch. Some departments needed more access, so things are being changed around.

“I’m very happy to be reelected. I am happy for the confidence the voters have in me,” Bryant said. “It’s time for the council to get down to business and work for the good of the city of Grosse Pointe Woods. There are infrastructure issues that we want to concentrate on, and we need to continue to tackle the financial aspect of the city and the money we have.”

Despite the election outcome, Shetler believes his team “ran a strong and positive campaign focused on #Grosse Pointe Woods.”

“I am very thankful for the support that I received and proud of our campaign,” Shetler said. “I will continue to be an involved member of our community. I thank everyone for their support.

“I’m not disappointed. I feel fine. Life goes on,” Shetler said. “There were some serious internal politics on council. All they wanted was a ‘yes’ man. I was never going to be that person. I’m very proud of my last eight years on, that everything I did was always for the city and residents first.”

Shetler is not sure if he would run again for public office.

“I have to consider a lot of things,” he said. “I need to take a break for a little bit — reassess.”

Shetler drew controversy during his campaign when — through a Freedom of Information Act request to City Hall — he received names, email addresses and home addresses of residents via water bills and city parks lists. After receiving the information, Shetler reportedly used it to email residents about his bid for reelection. The city’s FOIA officer granted the request, but city officials have since said that was an error.

When asked if the email controversy played into him not getting reelected, he said, “It might have played a small role, but there was a lot more going on.”

Winterholler ran on the message “For the family. For the future. For the Woods.”

“I knew this would be a tough race, considering I was the only candidate either not on the council or being supported by the mayor and council,” Winterholler said in an email. “The voters had not had a choice in six years, and I am proud to have given them a choice and a chance to discuss the issues that matter most to them.

“Considering I was a relatively unknown resident just three months ago and that I was not supported by the existing power structure, I am proud to have earned 1,951 votes,” Winterholler said. “I am thankful for each and every vote, and I will continue to fight for transparency and accountability within our city government.”

Metry, Koester, Bryant and Gafa were expected to be sworn in during a special City Council meeting Nov. 11.