Adam Hertz is victorious, and that's final.
A grueling and "suspenseful" three hours of counting ballots Wednesday confirmed Hertz ousted incumbent Councilwoman Pam Walzer from her Ward 2 seat on the Missoula City Council. At the end of a long afternoon, the white board in the Missoula County Courthouse conference room noted Hertz had taken 961 votes to Walzer's 956.
"I tried to stay really positive in the campaign, and I think that helped me," Hertz said shortly after the recount concluded.
Hertz is 26 and will be the youngest member of the council. The loan consultant and retail analyst will give a boost to the council's waning fiscal conservative voice, but a celebration wasn't in his sights Wednesday night.
"(I'll) go home and take care of my sick wife and sleep," he said.
The only progressive to lose in this year's city election, Councilwoman Walzer will finish her first term in January 2012. She said she plans to remain active in public service and will select a few projects to help shepherd rather than a full array.
"I'm not going away. I'll continue to be involved in my community," Walzer said.
Results on Election Day showed Hertz leading by just three votes, and he gained again Monday when elections officials counted provisional ballots and found two for him but just one for Walzer. The close vote meant a recount, and Wednesday, Hertz pulled ahead with five votes altogether.
His mom, Kate Hertz, sat in the audience of the conference room, and the candidate occasionally glanced at her. He kept a cool demeanor, but despite his aura of calm, Kate Hertz said her son was fired up. She, of course, was proud.
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"He's up for it," Kate Hertz said.
Also in the audience was Ethan Heverly, with the state Republican Party. Heverly said the counting was bumpy at first, but then county commissioners who read each vote out loud got into a rhythm and it went smoothly.
"It's kind of fun to be a part of it and watch democracy at work," Heverly said.
At the same time, Walzer said watching democracy at work is like watching paint dry. In her four years on the council, Walzer led in the creation of a bear buffer zone for the urban area and has been working on rules for bees in city limits.
"Really, elections when it comes down to it are not sexy. But it's so obvious the care our elections officials have to make sure every vote is counted," Walzer said.
The hand tally had to account for three ballots that didn't get fed into the machines last Tuesday - one in one batch and two in another - and elections administrator Vickie Zeier said it did. To her, the outcome Wednesday shows the counting machines do their job well.
"It proves the machines are very accurate," Zeier said.