East Aurora Mayor David J. DiPietro slid easily to victory Tuesday to embark on his third term at the helm of Village Hall, trouncing challenger Heidi M. Potenza in a contentious race that was expected to be a nail-biter.
In the end, DiPietro, 45, ran away with the race by garnering 62 percent of the vote, compared with Potenza's 38 percent. In what was considered high voter turnout, DiPietro received 1,057 votes to Potenza's 637.
The large spread in the mayoral vote count wasn't the only surprise after polls closed. The race for three trustee seats, which largely focused on divisiveness on the present board, resulted in two new faces for the board and one returning one.
Political newcomers Ernest F. Scheer and Keith E. Bender won trustee posts. Incumbent Trustee Patrick F. McDonnell, who closely aligned his campaign with that of DiPietro, was re-elected to a fourth two-year term.
Scheer was the top vote-getter, with 938 votes; followed by McDonnell's 850 and Bender's 679. Losing her re-election bid was Trustee Elizabeth Cheteny, with 644 votes. She had been the top trustee vote-getter two years ago and at first had planned to run for mayor in this election before dropping out. Candidates David G. Peltan, 668 votes, and Mary Alice Grant, 546 votes, also lost.
Potenza's risk was great. Despite her highly visible campaign, she not only lost her mayoral bid, but also is off the board altogether because her trustee term was up.
While residents and some candidates waited for nearly 80 minutes after polls closed to learn results, Potenza showed up with family and supporters in the center of the Village Hall foyer. Anticipating a positive outcome, some of her supporters had their cameras poised and ready, only to learn DiPietro had won.
"Of course, I'm disappointed," Potenza said as she left Village Hall. "I ran on integrity, and I took the high road. I hope the people hold him accountable."
Potenza, 37, a one-term trustee, has been DiPietro's deputy mayor and has been vocal about preservation issues and various development proposals in the village.
DiPietro -- who had been at home after polls closed and arrived at Village Hall after 10 p.m. once the results were known -- credited his record as leading him to victory. "The people spoke very loud about the direction they want in the village," he said. "Our record was overwhelming. The people realize we're doing a heck of a job."
DiPietro cited two consecutive tax decreases and a planned third one, along with the planned county takeover of the village sewer system as key components of his administration's record.
He predicted much of the same. "We've been doing smart growth. I don't think you'll see a different board direction," DiPietro said. "We're trying to keep the historic character of the village."
The board's complexion will change, to a degree, with the departure of Potenza and Cheteny. Both women had been among the toughest to scrutinize development plans and preservation issues in their one term on the board, with Cheteny even drafting a ban, which was later approved, prohibiting drive-through restaurants along Main Street.
"I'm glad that maybe we'll be able to work well together," Scheer said of the board, as he learned he snagged the highest number of votes for trustee.
Tuesday's results "send a clear message that common sense will prevail on this board," McDonnell said. "I think David DiPietro had some issues in the past with his management style. He has matured as an elected official."
East Aurora's voters made a strong showing, with a 40 percent turnout. There were 1,727 votes cast, including absentee ballots. Registered voters in the village total 4,360.
Terms of the newly elected officials take effect April 4.