HESPERIA — Candidates Larry Bird and Rebekah Swanson look like they will help guide the city of Hesperia into the future as they continue to lead for two seats on the Hesperia City Council.
Unofficial final election results from the San Bernardino County Elections Office Wednesday showed Bird, principal of Sultana High School, taking nearly 29 percent of the vote, followed by Swanson, a Hesperia Recreation and Park District director and teacher with the Hesperia Unified School District, who garnered 17.37 percent.
The Elections Office reported there are an estimated 222,000 county-wide ballots remaining to be counted. Those ballots include provisional ballots, mail ballots that require further signature review, and ballots cast that were damaged and require duplication added to results, but it was unclear exactly how many were in Hesperia. Updated results will be posted at 4 p.m. Thursday.
With Bird and Swanson at the dais, the Council will have two employees from the HUSD, something Mayor Pro Tem Paul Russ called "very interesting," with the two possibly having to recuse themselves when the Council deals with agenda items that involve the school district.
Many residents told the Daily Press they were shocked that incumbent Councilman Eric Schmidt was not re-elected for a second term. He received 16.05 percent of the vote, just 146 votes ahead of candidate Bob Stine, a deputy sheriff who took 15.51 percent of the vote. There was speculation that Schmidt's support of the controversial Tapestry housing development may have sealed his fate among voters.
Schmidt and Stine, who trail Swanson by roughly 400 votes, have a slim chance of overtaking her.
Both Bird and Swanson told the Daily Press they were humbled by the number of votes they received, were appreciative of the support of residents and look forward to helping chart the future of Hesperia.
"I was overwhelmed by the final numbers and I thank Eric Schmidt for endorsing and supporting me in my campaign," Bird told the Daily Press. "It was very bittersweet that Eric didn't win. He took a chance on me and I was looking forward to working with him."
Bird credited his support at the polls to Schmidt, as well as his grandfather who pastored a church in Hesperia for decades, his father who taught for the HUSD and for Bird's long tenure with the school district.
"I appreciate everything Eric did for me and I look forward to working with the Council," Bird said. "I also appreciate the citizens of Hesperia for coming out and showing their support for the candidates. It was a good race and many of the candidates received a large portion of the vote."
With Swanson winning, Russ mentioned that she would be the first female Council member since the late Rita Vogler, who was elected to the Council in 2002. The Daily Press reported that Vogler served as mayor and Council member for two consecutive four-year terms.
"I think she will bring a different perspective to the Council," said Russ, who also remarked that Bird will make an "excellent" addition to the Council as he would bring a "strong educational component" and "deep conservative values" to the dais.
Schmidt told the Daily Press he was surprised at the outcome, but emphasized that he was thankful that Bird had won and that "regardless of the outcome, the Lord is in control." He also added that "there are no coincidences and everything happens for a reason," and he'll spend some time contemplating his political future and will continue to be involved in the community.
A total of eight candidates made a run for the two open Council seats, including businessman and former Councilman Bill Jensen, who gained 7.69 percent of the vote; retired aerospace technician Bruce Krueger, with 6.66 percent; technical trainer Anthony Rhoades, with 4.19 percent, and supply technician James Blocker, with 3.57 percent.
Surprisingly, Krueger, who did not attend any candidate forums and was a relative unknown, fared better than Rhoades and Blocker, who both launched aggressive online campaigns and opposed the Tapestry project.
Considering the tradition of past elections, Mayor Bill Holland would hand over his seat to Russ and Councilman Russ Blewett would become mayor pro tem in December when Bird and Swanson are sworn in and Councilman Mike Leonard, who did not seek re-election, steps down.
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.