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Maumee And Monclova Voters Provide Heavy Support As Dan Hazard Wins Judicial Race Over Gary Byers

Following last week’s election, Maumee City Council member and attorney Dan Harzard (left) successfully unseated incumbent Maumee Municipal Court Judge Gary Byers. In October the two posed for a photo together at a forum in Waterville. Hazard will be sworn into office in January and Byers has said he would assist with the transition. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — A new judge will preside in the Maumee Municipal Court. Incumbent Municipal Court Judge Gary Byers, who has served on the bench for 24 years, lost his seat to attorney and Maumee City Council member Dan Hazard last week. Byers garnered 5,107 votes or 46.1 percent of the vote, while Hazard secured 5,967 votes or 53.8 percent of the vote, putting him over the top. On election night, Hazard’s supporters, family and friends waited for results at Dale’s Bar & Grill, but it wasn’t until late into the evening that Hazard found out he had won. “It’s humbling. I’m grateful and enthusiastic,” Hazard said. “I don’t think anyone thought we would have such a large margin of victory, but at the same time, it’s back to work now.” Hazard acknowledged his wife Katie, his father David Hazard and his campaign manager Billy Laranga, with working tirelessly on the campaign. According to Hazard, Laranga helped with fundraising, strategizing, implementing plans and coordinating volunteers. “I wouldn’t have won it without Billy. He was very instrumental in the campaign,” Hazard said. “This is the first time he’s run a campaign and he blew it out of the water.” Hazard’s team began planning the campaign about six months ago. They went door to door, called absentee voters, and sent letters to homeowners’ associations in Monclova Township. It was an exhaustive effort in which Hazard says he only slept three hours in the last few days leading up to the election. “Everything was strategically planned out and specifically designed for a specific target,” he said. According to the Lucas County unofficial results, Hazard won all precincts in Maumee. He also won all of Monclova Township, with the exception of Precinct 9. Judge Byers won all of Whitehouse and Waterville and all of Waterville, Providence, Springfield and Swanton Townships. For Judge Byers, the loss was difficult, but something he has accepted. “It hurts to lose but we don’t define ourselves by the result of one election,” he said. “I count myself lucky to have served the community for 24 years.” Judge Byers is not certain what his next chapter will be, but says there are always options and he will continue serving the community – something he considers very important. “My community involvement will continue, but in what capacity, we’ll wait and see,” he said. Some things he won’t miss about the job are being on call 24/7 to issue warrants for violent offenders or seeing addicts on a downward spiral no matter how much intervention and help is offered. “As judge, you don’t get a lot of feedback, but you make the best decisions you can and hope that you make a positive impact on folks,” he said. Throughout the campaign Hazard hammered on the judge’s handling of the municipal court’s budget and its increasing deficit. The city continually asked the judge to reign in spending and reduce personnel costs, and the judge insisted that he reduced his budget as much as he could. In 2015, the judge filed a lawsuit against the city for failing to fully fund the court to his specifications, a case he won in court. Then in September, Maumee deputy clerk Jane Monroe was charged with stealing more than $30,000 from the court. Byers said the timing of that event, coupled with the budget dispute, pushed the election in Hazard’s favor. “It’s something that happens and we tried to deal with it. Sometimes you just have to play the cards you are dealt,” he said. On Wednesday, Judge Byers called Hazard to congratulate him on his victory. “I assured him that I would assist him with the transition,” Judge Byers said. Now stepping into the role as head of the Maumee Municipal Court, Hazard remains committed to working with the staff, despite the previous history between the city and the court. “I have every intention of trying to work with everybody over there, but the fact of the matter is we will have a performance audit done,” Hazard said. Duties will be consolidated and the department will also undergo attrition to reduce staff, he said. “I’m sure there are employees over there that will do real well with that,” he said. Hazard has talked to other judges for insight into the job, and he will take part in training and mentoring programs through the Ohio Supreme Court. As chair of the Maumee Municipal Court Committee and with 16 years of practicing law, Hazard does believe he has some insight into the job. “I think I’m starting out in a position that’s better than just coming in not knowing anything,” he said. With cases currently pending in Michigan and Ohio, Hazard is working to find lawyers to take them over as he winds down his private law practice before he is sworn in next January. “My primary concern now is that I can hit the ground running once I’m in office,” he said. In addition to the judge’s race, other races also took place in Maumee:
Maumee City Council
With four open seats on council, incumbents Tim Pauken (19.85 percent), Brent Buehrer (19.74 percent) and Tom Wagener Jr. (18.26 percent) secured their seats and were re-elected to new four-year terms. Tracey Elmore, who received 2,008 votes or 17.17 percent, will fill the fourth open seat on council after being elected to her first term. In June, Maumee Mayor Richard Carr selected Elmore to fill the seat vacated by former council member Julie Rubini, who resigned from office. First-time challengers Scott Noonan (15.86 percent) and Lou “Bud” Thomson (9.13 percent) were unsuccessful in their bids for seats on council. In accordance with city charter, council will appoint a candidate to fill the remainder of Dan Hazard’s term, since he was elected to the Maumee Municipal Court and will step down from council. If council cannot select an individual to fill the seat by a majority vote, Maumee Mayor Richard Carr will select the person to fill the seat.
Maumee School Board
Incumbents Stephanie Piechowiak (22.79 percent) and Janet Wolff (20.30 percent) were both re-elected to four-year terms on the board. This is Piechowiak’s fifth term and Wolff’s ninth term on the board. Newcomer Jennifer Campos (22.73 percent) was also elected to a seat on the board after receiving 2,108 votes, just five votes shy of top vote-getter Piechowiak. Campos replaces school board member Jane Durham, who did not seek re-election. First-time challengers David Thomas (12.76 percent) Julia Demagall (11.31 percent) and Jeremy Demagall (10.12 percent) were unsuccessful in their bids for school board seats.

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