The Merced City Council is getting a makeover with two new faces winning seats in Tuesday's election.
Incumbent Councilman Noah Lor managed to keep his seat with 21.6 percent of the vote, but his fellow incumbent, John Carlisle, fell to the bottom of the pack early and lost his bid for re-election with 10.4 percent of the vote.
Former police chief Tony Dossetti and Mike Murphy, a small-business attorney, were victorious with 21.3 percent and 19.3 percent of the vote, respectively.
Carlisle acknowledged that when times are bad and the economy's in the gutter, elections tend to bring about an anti-incumbent push. Ads encouraging residents to vote against him may have also factored into the loss. "The ABC (anybody but Carlisle) stuff obviously didn't help any," he said.
Murphy, 32, will soon begin his first stint on the council after his win Tuesday night. "It's great, it's been a lot of hard work," he said. "The real work starts now – looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work."
He spent election night at Florencio's Mexican restaurant, milling around a crowd of about 30 friends and family.
A Merced native, Murphy thinks the council has been missing someone with small-business experience, and he thinks that's what he brings to the table.
"Small business is the backbone of our local economy," he said. "We haven't figured out how to integrate the UC Merced campus into our local economy. What I do professionally is I work with UC campuses and other research universities to incubate small business ideas."
Murphy already has ideas of what he'd like to see the council focus on.
"One of the first orders of business for the new council, whoever it is, is going to have to be significantly reducing the impact fees. It's too costly to do business in Merced--we've lost out on opportunities as a result."
He admits there are dangers and tradeoffs in reducing those fees, but he said, "We're in triage mode right now. We need to jump-start our local economy. Making it easier to do business in Merced has to be part of that recovery."
Across town at DeAngelo's restaurant, Dossetti gathered with a group of about 25 family, friends and supporters. The crowd cheered while Dossetti shared early results with the crowd as he held onto second place. Dossetti said he did everything he could to get his message across to voters, and the response is what he expected.
Lor, who made an appearance at both Murphy's and Dossetti's parties to give support, held onto his council seat. "We work as a team," he said of Murphy and Dossetti. "Teamwork is important to move Merced ahead." Lor said he's been campaigning since January.
Planning Commissioner Richard Cervantes garnered 13.9 percent of the vote, coming in fourth among the candidates. Even so, he said he felt confident all through the night. "We have to start looking in a new direction, which in my opinion, would be the private sector," Cervantes said. "I'm a welder. I came from the private sector. I'm in the nuts and bolts of this down-turned economy."
The council candidates at the bottom of the list included Carl Pollard with 5.8 percent, Alex Gallardo Jr. with 5.3 percent and Charles Bolin with 2.1 percent, according to Tuesday night's results with all precincts reporting.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org, reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or email@example.com and reporter Josh Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.