Early returns show Nevada City council members keeping seats; one challenger close behind | TheUnion.com

Early returns show Nevada City council members keeping seats; one challenger close behind

UPDATE: According to Nevada County election officials there are 10,000 ballots still to be tallied. Final results will not be in until Thursday, possibly Friday.

Two incumbents and two challengers faced off Tuesday in the first contested election Nevada City has seen in more than a decade.

With 997 votes counted as of 11 p.m., the race was too close to call as of press time. Duane Strawser was in the lead with 326 votes. Fellow incumbent Evans Phelps was in second place with 271 votes, challenger Erin Minett was just three votes behind with 268 and Pauli Halstead trailed at 132. The top two vote-getters will take office in July and will serve four years on the five-person council.

"My theory is I win either way," said Phelps after the first numbers were released. "I either get to serve my community for another four years, or I get my life back."

As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, not much had changed, leading Phelps to declare, "I'm going to bed and I'm not going to worry about it."

Just 23.48 percent of the vote had been counted by 11 p.m.

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"I'm humbled by the support the community has showed in trusting me to help make decisions that will determine Nevada City's future direction, at a time when we face many immediate and long-term challenges," Strawser said.

All four candidates agreed on many of the issues facing the small community — notably, affordable housing, homelessness, Nevada City's sphere of influence and permitting cannabis businesses. They differed, however, in their approach to potential solutions.

Strawser and Phelps emphasized their experience on the council, adding that they wanted to continue to shepherd projects they had helped initiate or oversee issues that have not been resolved. Strawser, for instance, highlighted the future of the county courthouse. Phelps cited the creation of a new trail on Sugarloaf Mountain and the development of the old airport property, possibly with a solar farm.

Minett and Halstead campaigned on bringing fresh energy and new ideas to the council.

"The best thing about this has been all the people I have gotten to talk to," Minett said. "Learning what people really care about, even if I don't win."

Halstead said she did not expect she would move into the lead, adding, "I'm really proud of myself for running. It was a real learning experience."

City treasurer

Nevada City's current city clerk, Niel Locke, ran against incumbent David McKay for the position of city treasurer.

As of press time, McKay was in the lead with 306 votes to Locke's 178.

Both the city clerk and the city treasurer are part-time positions that are largely ceremonial or advisory in nature. The actual finance and clerk duties for Nevada City are handled by City Manager Catrina Olson and Administrative Services Manager Loree McCay.

The treasurer's responsibilities include serving on the audit committee and reviewing the city's monthly warrant register, and reviewing the city's investment quarterly reports.

Locke said he wanted to serve in both positions, which McKay argued was a conflict of interest. Locke said his ultimate goal if elected is that by 2020, both offices will be appointed.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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