Atwater mayor out. Here’s what winners promise after nasty campaign year

Councilmember Paul Creighton declared victory in the mayor’s race in Atwater on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. He’s running for District 4.
Councilmember Paul Creighton declared victory in the mayor’s race in Atwater on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. He’s running for District 4.

The voters of Atwater ousted one-term Mayor Jim Price on Election Day, supporting the new direction the city has moved in the past two years, according to Tuesday’s winners.

Atwater mayoral candidate Paul Creighton and incumbent Councilmember Brian Raymond declared victory Tuesday evening in their individual races.

Both councilmembers in their first term took turns standing on a chair inside Isabella’s Bar and Grill in Atwater to thank supporters, who in turn chanted “fix City Hall” over and over.

Creighton, 50, said his lead was a resounding approval from residents tired of nasty politics that plague council meetings and the daily workings of the city. With 2,641 votes, he held about 67 percent of the vote.

“The citizens of Atwater have spoken tonight. They like what we’re doing,” he said on Tuesday. “The direction we’re taking the city is the direction they want to go. We got to finish what we started.”

Outgoing Mayor Jim Price did not respond to requests for comment.

Creighton said his first goal as mayor will be to unite the often-feuding council. He also said he plans to return Atwater City Hall and its employees to a five-day work week. Employees have been furloughed on Fridays for years.

Atwater politics has been particularly nasty in the past two years with two sides of the divided council accusing each other of legal and ethical violations.

The employment of Police Chief Samuel Joseph, who was placed on leave back in January, factored into the Election Day results, Creighton said.

Creighton supported the decision to oust the police chief while Price did not. The two have also fallen on opposite sides in the hiring of City Attorney Doug White and City Manager Lori Waterman, both of which were supported by Creighton.

Atwater certainly faces many challenges as the city has struggled with its finances with a $2.5 million general fund debt and millions more in unfunded liabilities. The city has recently loosened its marijuana dispensary laws as one of many efforts to pay down debt.

Raymond received 64.7 percent of the vote, about 818 votes. “I feel overwhelmed and thankful to the residents of District 4 for believing in what we’ve been doing and want us to continue what we started,” he said.

His opponent Don Hyler III conceded Tuesday night with 440 votes.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that you’re going to see a more unified council going forward, and one that’s not worried about petty backbiting but worried about seeing the city move forward for the residents,” Raymond said.

District 3 candidates Danny Ambriz’s 260 votes (47.19 percent) and Dan Hernandez’s 287 votes (52.09 percent) left that race yet to have a clear winner Tuesday.

Atwater’s Measure B, which allows the city to tax marijuana sales up to 15 percent, is well on its way to passing with 67.1 percent of votes.