All ballots are in and accounted for, the numbers have not changed since the last report Nov. 29, and final election certification is imminent, said Napa County Registrar of Voters John Tuteur Tuesday afternoon.
That means in Calistoga Don Williams and returning incumbent Gary Kraus will fill the two city council seats.
In the final count, Williams came in by a wide margin with 1,217 votes (46.88 percent).
Though initially tied in a very close race for the second seat, Kraus finished with 708 votes (27.27 percent), to fellow incumbent Jim Barnes’ 671 votes (25.85 percent).
Incumbent Mayor Chris Canning, who ran unopposed, had 1,361 votes (100 percent).
Also, a measure to increase the lodging tax by 1 percent easily passed in Calistoga with almost 80 percent of the votes, or 1,389 to 355. Similar measures to increase the tax passed in the city of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and unincorporated Napa County.
The close city council races in Calistoga, St. Helena and American Canyon had already been all but decided with the county’s Nov. 20 update.
The reason the final count takes so long, Tuteur said, is because Napa County elections depend on paper ballots returned to the county by mail or drop-box, which have to be tallied and verified by hand.
The manual, double-check tally took a look at more than 5,000 ballots from seven precincts. The goal is to use this sample to confirm that the machine count of 57,132 ballots cast is accurate.
Checkers print out images of ballots the machine scanned and matches them to the actual paper ballots, Tuteur said. If a paper ballot has no matching image, then it wasn’t counted by the machine.
Before the election, Tuteur said he wanted Napa County to top the 54.99 percent turnout in the previous gubernatorial election of November 2014. The turnout for the Nov. 6 election was 73 percent.
Tuteur previously said the city council race in Calistoga was the closest he has seen in his 21-year tenure.
Kraus and Williams will be sworn in at the Dec. 18 city council meeting.
Of his re-election Kraus said, “I am honored by re-election to a fourth term. Jim Barnes shall be missed, he is my friend. His insurance background helped the city greatly. His knowledge of finance, helped with issues ranging from review of CalPERS to helping with budget building. Jim is into getting things done, without him we would not have our Veterans Memorial today, and that’s not to mention his work on the Napa Valley County Fairgrounds purchase (from the county).
“As for myself, I plan to look for ways to reduce water and sewer rates, transition the Fairgrounds to the city, take on the housing issue but most of all we need to reduce the risk of a major wildfire. Those goals can only be achieved by working closely with the new city council.”
Barnes said in an email he has no comment at this time.
That Williams came out so far ahead in the election may not come as a surprise to many in the community who have been looking for a change in the direction the town is going. Issues such as development, housing, and water rates have been contentious.
Williams said he has been thinking about changes he would like to see made to the city decision-making process which would be more inclusive to all Calistoga residents.
One thing Williams would like to do, he said, is make the council more accessible by changing the language in the agenda, taking out key capital letters and omitting a recommended course of action ahead of time. He’d also like to make the meeting agenda available earlier, and possibly vary meeting dates and times to accommodate more residents.
“Make the process more available and enhance positive feelings about the council, and get through the rhetoric,” Williams said. “The council serves the people, not the other way around.”
Williams, who went door-to-door campaigning throughout the election, has a core group of about 15 community supporters he will confer with on decisions that affect the city, he said. He also has a mailing list of a couple hundred more.
“The General Plan is not subject to the whims of current thinking. What we want and what we need are different,” he said.
Williams also said he believes in finding out why things are important to people, and plans to keep an open mind and is respectful of all viewpoints.