Sandy City Council members voted Monday to certify the city's mayoral election after recounts kept the race in limbo for several weeks.
Current council member Monica Zoltanski was confirmed as the winner of the election Monday and became mayor-elect. Sandy City Recorder Wendy Downs presented results of two ballot retabulations, one on Nov. 16 and one on Nov. 17, both of which revealed Zoltanski beat challenger Jim Bennett by just 21 votes, 8,620 to 8,599.
Council members, including Zoltanski, voted 7-0 to certify the results Monday. Cheers erupted in the council chambers following the meeting, which lasted less than 10 minutes.
"I'm ecstatic. I'm proud. I'm humbled. I'm ready to serve," Zoltanski told reporters after the meeting.
She will become the city's first female mayor. Bennett conceded to Zoltanski on Nov. 4, despite the results remaining very close.
Sandy decided to forgo a primary election and pilot ranked choice voting for this year's Nov. 2 municipal election, resulting in a crowded field of eight candidates, including four sitting council members, running to replace outgoing Mayor Kurt Bradburn.
When the razor-thin margin emerged between Zoltanski and Bennet after canvassing, council members refused to certify the results of their own election at a meeting last week. Zoltanski abstained from voting at that meeting, saying she didn't wish to cast the deciding vote on whether or not to certify her own victory.
The council's refusal to certify the results led to a legal disagreement, with Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen questioning whether the city was entitled to another recount.
Monday, council members said Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson's office confirmed the city's results didn't qualify for a further recount. The recount threshold is 19 votes and under, according to Zoltanski.
Zoltanski didn't support the city's move to ranked choice voting.
"It is unfair to not me, not Mr. Bennett, but to the voters in this election to create a cloud over the results that we have here tonight before us," she said at a meeting last week. "There's nobody that wants finality more than me. But also I don't want to start my new term with a question about the legitimacy of this election."
But on Monday, Zoltanski expressed gratitude to Henderson for stepping in over the weekend and offering further clarification on the recount process. That's what the council needed to hear, Zoltanski said.
"There's no doubt," she said. "The people of Sandy need to know that they can be very confident that every vote is counted. Every vote was counted fairly."
Even though the race was decided by a margin of just two votes over the state's recount threshold, Zoltanski said that since the election was so competitive and the city's voting process was new, those 21 votes carried more weight.
"People might say it's close, and I guess if you compare it to all elections over time, yes, it was a squeaker," Zoltanski said. "However, first time doing ranked choice voting in Sandy, eight candidates in the field — so it might as well have been a landslide if you ask me."
Zoltanski added that she hopes to see higher voter turnout in future Sandy municipal elections. Those races are the most important, since local government bodies are closest to the people, she said.
"Every vote does matter, and I'm proof of that," Zoltanski said. "There were a lot of great candidates in the field, a lot of ideas, a new process, so it was important that everyone who did vote got their ballot in. ... Every election is important."
Contributing: Ladd Egan, Josh Szymanik