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Rist elected to Ironton City Council

IRONTON — “She did it, she actually did it!”

Those were the words being shouted from the Fourth Street steps of the Lawrence County Courthouse just moments after former Ironton police officer Beth Rist was elected to one of four vacant seats on Ironton City Council, according to unofficial results from the Lawrence County Board of Elections.

“I’m pleased and thankful for those who voted for me,” Rist said Tuesday night. “The confidence of the residents is important to me based on the way the city has treated me.”

Rist, who unofficially garnered 1,241 votes, finished third in the six-person race that saw the top four vote getters earn seats on Ironton’s legislative body.

Each seat carries a four-year term.

Voters in the city retained incumbents Mike Lutz and Bob Cleary who lead the ticket with 1,520 and 1,343 votes respectfully.

However the fourth and final seat to be awarded might take a few weeks to be decided based on a narrow margin between newcomer Dave Frazer who sits fourth with 1,227 votes and incumbent Leo Johnson in fifth place with 1,217 votes.

Hugh Donald Scott finished sixth with 1,132 votes.

All races with a vote difference of less than 0.5 percent are automatically recounted per state election law.

The Lawrence County Board of Elections will have its official count on Nov. 19 and will include any outstanding provisional ballots not counted in the unofficial tally.

To conduct a recount, the board of elections will count a random sampling of 3 percent of the results from the contested races. If the recounts match the official results, they will stand. If there are any discrepancies the board of elections will recount all the results.

Johnson, who chairs council’s Public Utilities Committee, did not seem hopeful his deficit would change.

“I appreciate the people giving me four years. I wanted the opportunity to serve again, but that’s okay. I have no regrets,” Johnson said Tuesday night.

Frazer said he was happy but tired following a day of last minute campaigning at the new Ironton Elementary and Middle schools.

“I appreciate everyone who voted for me. I’m ready to go,” Frazer said.

For Lutz, the thrill of leading the ticket and being able to name the heads of council’s committees in two years comes following a heartbreaking defeat in council’s last election.

“I’ve enjoyed the past few years and I am honored to be elected to a job I enjoy doing,” said Lutz, who was appointed to council to replace Rich Blankenship when he was elected mayor. “In leading the ticket, it is an important responsibility I will take seriously.”

Cleary, who will begin his 21st year on council with his re-election said the feeling never changes.

“I’m very excited. I look forward for the next four years in continuing with our current projects especially the replacement of the Ironton-Russell Bridge,” Cleary said.

But despite Lutz’s rise to the top, Cleary’s longevity and razor-thin margin between Frazer and Johnson, the night, according to many sweating out results at the board of elections office, belonged to Rist.

Rist, whose 13-year career with the Ironton Police Department has at times played out like a game of table-tennis in terms of both legal wrangling and public opinion, her decision to run was based on paying back residents of the city who have been good to her.

“I just want to help everyone in this city,” Rist said. “It’s been overwhelming with all the support I’ve been given.”

Fired by Mayor Rich Blankenship in October 2008 for admitting to the falsification of a traffic ticket, Rist had her termination reversed by an arbitrator in July who claimed the 13-year police veteran was a “victim of disparate treatment” and that the city “had no just cause to discharge.”

The arbitrator ruled that Rist should be “restored to employment immediately effective upon receipt of this decision.”

However Rist has not returned to work. In September, the city appealed the ruling based on the interpretation of her probation status following her pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of falsification.

That appeal followed a July 17 council session where Ironton City Council voted 5-2 to grant Blankenship the authority to appeal the arbitrator’s decision if the mayor decided to.