Council incumbents upset

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 8, 2000

More than 80 percent of Austin’s registered voters turned out to cast their vote for the people who will represent them at City Hall in the next term.

Wednesday, November 08, 2000

More than 80 percent of Austin’s registered voters turned out to cast their vote for the people who will represent them at City Hall in the next term. Two appointed incumbents lost their seats, four-year council veteran Dick Chaffee retained his, winning in every ward over challenger Arnold Lang. Third Ward council member Dick Lang and Mayor Bonnie Rietz both were unchallenged, and won handily, although there were 494 write-in votes for mayor.

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Citizen concerns about public safety may have been a factor in the two Austin City Council races that First Ward incumbent Neil Fedson and Second Ward incumbent Roger Boughton were beaten by the challengers, Wayne Goodnature and Pete Christopherson, respectively. Both Goodnature and Christopherson were very vocal in their support for a larger Fire Department staff in the run up to the election.

Christopherson, a carpenter and part-time firefighter, thought a number of factors may have influenced the Second Ward voters who elected him by a vote of 2,237 to 1,661, a result that found the Austin native pleasantly surprised.

"I’d like to think that people liked what I had to say and what I’ve experienced," the Austin native said. "I’m a firefighter, I’ve got friends on the police force, others that are in businesses that were disrupted by the flood. Experience is best teacher."

Boughton credited Christopherson with running a good campaign and said he felt fine about the results.

"Pete did a good job," the incumbent said. "I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to be on the council for the past 11 months – it was a wonderful experience. The great thing about this country is that tomorrow morning, from City Council to president, whoever wins, everyone will get behind them and support them."

Fedson called Goodnature with congratulations after results were announced. The incumbent-for-a-year was disappointed, however.

"I feel I ran a good campaign," he said. "It wasn’t for lack of trying. I think probably public safety was a factor: I think the current staffing level at the Fire Department is fine, Wayne didn’t. Age might have had something to do with it, too," the 69-year-old, 50-year Austin resident said.

Goodnature thought the race, which he won by 240 votes, could have gone either way.

"Neil was a good candidate," he said. "It was nice to have a good campaign and just talk about the issues. I think the citizens had really good choices in every ward."

The former Mower County sheriff and owner of PST Computers in Austin is looking forward to the challenge of serving on the council.

"I have a passion for leaving things better than I found them," Goodnature said. "And I like to be in the thick of things."

Dick Chaffee, at-large council member for another two years after winning 5,998 to 3,757 over challenger Arnold Lang, was the only council member at City Hall to watch the results roll in. He waited until all of them were in before getting a victory hug from wife Colette.

"You never really know how people are going to perceive what’s going on in Austin," the incumbent said, "and there were a lot of issues in the air."

He is looking forward to helping the two newcomers to the council get up to speed and to continuing the $36 million in projects the council has been working on.

Unchallenged candidates Rietz and Lang were both more excited about the results of other city races and national races than their own last night, although both expressed their thanks to the voters for supporting them.

"It’s an exciting election," Rietz said. "There are a lot of good things going on in Austin."