By Misty Volaski
The results are in — Paul Blatz is the newest addition to the Ojai City Council.
Blatz beat out opponent Lenny Klaif by almost 21 percent in the midterm special election held Tuesday. Blatz will fill the vacancy left by Joe DeVito, who retired early last December.
Klaif took 38.94 percent, while Blatz took 59.85 percent of the 1,320 total votes cast.
Both men congratulated each other on a “positive campaign.”
“Congrats to Paul first off,” Klaif said Wednesday. “There was no negativity. It was great.”
Blatz commended Klaif for conducting an “exceptional” campaign. “It was truly a pleasure to be part of a campaign where both sides openly and honestly discussed important issues facing Ojai without all the negativity we have come to expect in political campaigns.”
Mayor Steve Olsen praised both men, saying, “I think we had two well-qualified candidates. I congratulate Paul. The public chose him at this time, and I look forward to working with him. I worked with him in the past on the Planning Commission, and I’m sure he’ll do a fantastic job as a council member.”
Despite having lost this midterm election, Klaif is not ruling out running again in November’s general election, in which three seats (Carol Smith, Steve Olsen and Paul Blatz) will be up for re-election. When pressed, Klaif responded, “I don’t know. The day after an election is the exact wrong time to make a decision like that. It’s something I will have to contemplate.”
He did confirm, however, that he will continue attending City Council meetings as a citizen. “I can’t imagine staying away,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in this. And whether or not I won, I still think that I represent a substantial number of people who have the best interests of Ojai at heart. I’ll continue to engage in the debate of our future. I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but occasionally I ask an intelligent question that leads (somewhere).”
Klaif plans to spend time with family and catch up on “work-work” in the next few months, and he is helping produce “Cabaret,” which opens June 25 and runs to July 25 at the Ojai Art Center.
Blatz, meanwhile, is ready to get going as soon as he is formally appointed to the City Council on July 13. “My immediate focus,” he said, “will be on effective construction management of the Libbey Bowl project, construction completion of the Skate Park, installation of a bus shelter at the ‘Y,’ drafting a city ordinance mandating the cleaning up of the vacant buildings along Ojai Avenue, and investigating the Golden State Water Company rate hike request.”
Blatz wished to thank the citizens of Ojai for “your confidence in my ability to represent your interests on the City Council.” He also wished to thank “all those volunteers who worked tirelessly on my campaign, with a special thanks to my campaign manager and son, Ryan Blatz, who ran a very well-thought-out and impressive campaign. And to Cindy Latella, my campaign eagle, who you may have seen at the ‘Y,’ for suffering through the heat in that eagle costume while promoting my campaign. My election victory would not have been possible without their help.”