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Geoff Ellsworth at Lyman Park

St. Helena City Council candidate Geoff Ellsworth was sitting at a table in Lyman Park on Tuesday afternoon, surrounded by campaign signs. He said he'd had a lot of people wave ballots and honk as they drove by.

Two challengers, Mary Koberstein and Geoff Ellsworth, are leading the four-way race for two seats on the St. Helena City Council, while a city sales tax measure has apparently passed.

In a preliminary tally released at 8:01 p.m., Mary Koberstein was the top vote-getter with 853 votes (33.27 percent), followed by Geoff Ellsworth with 714 votes (27.85 percent). Trailing were incumbents Greg Pitts (508 votes, 19.81 percent) and Sharon Crull (483 votes, 18.84 percent).

Koberstein said, “I met a lot of people all over town. They were working for me, helping me, having coffees and house parties. As a newcomer, this is so unbelievable. I’m amazed.”

Geoff Ellsworth, who was second in the four-person race, said, “I worked as hard as I could to make connections, going out and knocking on doors. The reward is I get to serve the community.”

Ellsworth and Koberstein watched the results come in during an election night party at Koberstein’s house, where they were surrounded by supporters.

Incumbents Pitts and Crull could not be reached immediately for comment. Both ran minimal campaigns and touted their knowledge of city issues and experience on the council – eight years for Crull and four years for Pitts.

Koberstein ran on her experience as a St. Helena planning commissioner and her career in city planning and land use law, and pledged to have a pragmatic, open approach to government. Ellsworth, one of the founders of Citizens’ Voice St. Helena, said the city needs to manage tourism and fix its financial problems without compromising citizens’ quality of life.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Pitts said, “I am hopeful that I will be re-elected for another four years here in St. Helena, but I would be happy with any outcome. I look forward to a bright future for our city.”

Pitts also said he feels very optimistic about the passage of Measure D. “I feel it is very important for our community and to stabilize our fiscal situation. It’s the first step in many steps we need to take,” he said.

The next step is to revisit other revenue concepts that were discussed by the city-appointed Revenue Task Force, and according to Pitts, prioritize them and further explore them.

Pitts said although he expected to be in town Tuesday night, he wasn’t sure he would be watching election results. “I might check in on Saturday, because it will take a while to count them up,” he predicted. Pitts was scheduled to catch a plane at 6 a.m. Wednesday for Sun Valley, for both business and for mountain biking.

City sales tax

Measure D, which would increase St. Helena's sales tax by a half-cent, had 69.89 percent “yes” votes and 30.11 percent “no” votes in a preliminary release of votes tallied. In order to pass, it needed a simple majority of 50 percent plus one vote.

Measure D would generate about $1.4 million a year for St. Helena’s General Fund. No specific budget allocation was identified, but city officials say the tax is necessary to maintain the current level of service that St. Helenans expect.

St. Helena Mayor Alan Galbraith said, “It is fair to say that Measure D is passed. Those results are sufficiently telling at this point.” He added that from what he knew about the election results in the past and with knowledge from Napa County Registrar of Voters John Tuteur, he was confident that D had passed.

Galbraith organized and helped fund the pro-Measure D campaign. There was no organized opposition.

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In Lyman Park

On Tuesday afternoon, St. Helena City Council candidate Geoff Ellsworth was sitting in Lyman Park, surrounded by his election signs. It was a visible effort for him to continue to campaign. He said, “I’ve had a lot of people stop by, people who are going to the post office see me across the street and come over,” he said. Some of those people wave, honk their car horns and even “some of them show me their ballots, and say, ‘I’ve got your name on it’ before putting them in the post office,” Ellsworth said.

He added, “It’s been good to sit out in the park. I would say four or five people come here, sit down and talk to me for 20 minutes and I hear about what they’re seeing.”

He added he was keeping neutral about his chances, saying he had a 50/50 chance to win the election for a council seat. Although he said he had not heard much talk about Measure D, he added, “I’m pretty secure that it will pass. It is a 50 percent vote and I think it will make it.”

Two days ago, Ellsworth said he had a Hillary Clinton supporter on one side of him and a Donald Trump supporter on the other side and it was uncomfortable. “I just stood in the center with my head down, and everybody realized I just wanted to talk about local issues at this table.”

At 750 Wines

On Tuesday evening, David and Monica Stevens, co-owners of St. Helena’s 750 Wines, held a welcome party for their newest employee, Elizabeth Vianello.

David Stevens, co-founder with his wife of Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch, said he was hoping that voters in Napa County would vote for Measure A, one of two measures that seeks to change procedures at the Napa County Animal Shelter to save animals from being killed.

“Monica drafted Measure B, then met with the Board of Supervisors, both individually and as a group,” Stevens said. Naturally, the supervisors had their own ideas about the initiative and the two groups created Measure A.

“We all agreed to support Measure A and we were telling our supporters, yes we created B, but we support A. So, let’s all vote for A. There may be some confusion on that one, and we’re hoping that A actually wins.”

Shortly after the release of the first election results at 8:01 p.m., Tuesday, with 93 percent of the precincts reporting, it appeared that Measure A was passing, with 69.78 percent yes vote and 30.28 percent no vote, while Measure B was failing, with 54.79 percent no vote versus 45.21 percent yes vote.

Between 5 and 6 p.m., about 50 people attended the party at 750 Wines, and quite a few were interested in the national election results that were being shown on a big-screen television.

Stevens said the election season this year was ridiculous. “It was a clown car, it’s an embarrassment,” he said. “We’re hearing this from our clients who have been overseas recently, the first thing, even cab drivers, ask is what’s the deal with your presidential election? It’s an embarrassment worldwide.

“Watching the election returns as they come in now, 5:30 here, so it’s 8:30 as the polls are closing on the East Coast, it’s very, very close. Closer than I expected it to be. I hope we can make a dash to the finish line.”

Stevens said he is supporting Hillary Clinton. “I don’t know how anybody who is black, Hispanic, female or physically impaired, who hasn’t been attacked by Trump. I’m completely in favor of Hillary, and not just because I want to vote against Donald Trump, but I think she’s been in public service for 30 years. She’s been in the White House on and off, between Bill was president and working with Barack. She knows how it works, she knows how to get things done. She will reach across the aisle. If the Democrats win the Senate and Hillary wins the presidency, we will actually get things done.”

Calistoga winemaker Kirk Venge was also watching the national results at 750 Wines. He said he thought the national election was a “heated debate, a little obnoxious, I think, quite frankly. We’ll just see what happens. I’m not too crazed at either of the candidates.”

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St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st