AUBURN — The city elected its youngest mayor in memory and weeded out a field of five at-large candidates for the City Council, electing a longtime incumbent and a political newcomer.
Joshua Shea, the publisher of LA Magazine, led vote-getters in the council race with a total of 2,237 ballots for his first elected office. Though his name gets around because of his magazine, he was determined to take nothing for granted in his campaign, he said.
"I ran scared," he said. Now that the election is over, he said he feels grateful for people's votes for a vision that included unconventional thinking and vision. "If I lost, at least it would have been for the right reasons."
Belinda Gerry, who has served as a city councilor for eight years, won re-election, garnering only 39 votes fewer than Shea, for a total of 2,198.
"I feel very honored," Gerry said.
Challengers Jeremiah Bartlett, Ronald Potvin and J. Michael Lemay all missed the mark with votes of 1,891 and 1,536 and 1,006, respectively.
Also elected to the City Council were Tizz Crowley in Ward 1, Robert Hayes in Ward 2, Mary LaFontaine in Ward 3, David Colby Young in Ward 4 and Leroy Walker Sr. in Ward 5.
Jonathan LaBonte, who was unopposed in his bid for mayor, drew a total of 4,684 votes.
He said he was happy to finally know who will make up the council that he, as mayor, will lead.
"It feels good now to know who the team is going to be," LaBonte said late Tuesday after votes were tallied. Final numbers were released at about 11:10 p.m.
Now, he can begin the work of building consensus, he said.
But first, the 31-year-old mayor-elect celebrated, gathering with family and friends at the Fire House Grill in New Auburn.
Though the history is not all clear — LaBonte and others are still searching 19th-century records for data — it appears that he will be the youngest mayor in the city's history.
The next-youngest was John Cleveland, who was elected to the job in 1983 at the age of 33.
Either way, LaBonte plans to work hard before his inauguration, which will likely be scheduled for mid-December.
"I still have my obligation to my county position," the Androscoggin County commissioner said. Before taking the mayor's job, he will have to leave the county job, according to state statute.
Auburn also elected a new School Committee on Tuesday, though most of the seats were uncontested.
Incumbent Bonnie Hayes defeated challenger Beth Favreau to keep her seat in Ward 2. Tom Kendall won the Ward 3 seat, Tracy Levesque was elected to Ward 4 and Lawrence Pelletier took Ward 5. Francois Bussiere took the at-large seat. City officials did not release the name of the winner in the write-in contest for the Ward 1 seat.