The atmosphere at the Whitley County Republican Party’s unofficial headquarters – The Square restaurant in downtown Columbia City – was electric last night as everyone awaited the final results of the 2023 Municipal General Elections for Columbia City and Larwill.
Seats began filling before the polls officially closed at 6 p.m. with a mix of candidates, their families and other supporters streaming in over the next hour. Nervous chatter filled the air.
As is often the case in Whitley County elections, the early voter tallies were loaded online at 6 p.m. and indicated what would be the later final outcomes. Still, candidates were on edge for the next hour awaiting results from the polling sites in Columbia City and Larwill.
Incumbent Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel received 76.66% of the vote, sealing his victory over his Democratic opponent Steve Schmitt who ended the race with 23.34% of the vote. The race was won with 1110 votes for Daniel and 338 votes for Schmitt.
Incumbent Columbia City Councilwoman Jennifer Zartman Romano also retained her seat with 71.76% of the vote over her Libertarian opponent, Melany Love, who finished with 28.24% of the vote. Romano won with 277 votes, ahead of Love with 109 votes.
Unopposed candidates in the Columbia City Municipal election included Clerk Treasurer Rosie Coyle, At Large Councilman Daniel Weigold, Councilwoman Leslee Robinson, Councilwoman Jenny Refitt-Middleton and Councilman Tad Varga.
In the Larwill election, the top finishers included Republican Jerry C. Utter with 31.48% (34 votes), Republican Troy C. Kiefer with 29.63% (32 votes) and Democrat Lore Wolfe with 22.22% (24 votes) of the popular vote. Challenger Republican Jeffrey Griffin came in fourth 16.67% (18 votes) and did not secure a seat.
Incumbent Larwill Clerk Treasurer Renee Sills was not opposed in her election.
Turnout for the 2023 elections in Whitley County was 23.06% with 1516 votes cast out of 6574 registered voters. Of the votes cast, 1161 were cast on election day, 60 were cast via paper ballot and 295 were cast during early voting which began on October 30 at the Whitley County Courthouse. In total, 10 Whitley County precincts were involved in this year’s election.