The candidate wins the Birchwood Village mayoral race | Rare Techy
It’s official: A retired attorney rode his mayoral campaign all the way to Washington County City Hall, defeating two candidates on the ballot in last week’s election.
Margaret Ford’s victory was confirmed Tuesday night by the Birchwood Village office. They confirmed that Ford received 271 write-in votes and the two candidates on the ballot, James Nelson and Michael McKenzie, received 171 and 146 votes, respectively.
Ford, whose family has deep roots in the Birchwood Village community on the south shore of White Bear Lake, wanted to be on the ballot, but a family medical emergency forced him to cancel his plans. Only in September did the health problems become clear and Ford decided to continue his campaign.
He had by then met the deadline to get on the ballot, but bolstered his campaign with a group of supporters, the support of outgoing Mayor Mary Wingfield and the slogan “Together, Write Now.”
“It was really a grassroots source saying, ‘We want another option,'” Ford said.
Ford knocked on doors on weekends, and his campaign volunteers put up 50 outdoor signs in one night early on. This week they put up another 25.
Ford said he enjoyed meeting people on the weekends. Local residents told him they want more communication with City Hall, consensus on the use of green space, discussion of affordability and continued vigilance against traffic.
The leafy enclave of about 860 residents had a disastrous summer of traffic congestion caused by lengthy repairs and renovations to Highway 12/Wildwood Road. Drivers looking for a shortcut sometimes shot through Birchwood Village at high speeds, prompting city officials to erect traffic control signs and temporary one-way signs.
On election night, he didn’t know what to make of the incoming totals until he saw a report around 11 p.m. that more write-in votes had been cast than votes cast for either candidate on the ballot. The unusual campaign caused confusion. The Star Tribune misstated one of the men on the ballot in its Nov. 11 edition before the write-in votes were released.
Before retiring in 2020, Ford was an attorney in private practice focusing on estate tax law.
Wingfield, who helped manage Ford’s campaign after he decided to retire from local politics, said he first met Ford a year ago when he was looking for volunteers.
“When I reached out to him, he said, ‘What can I do to help?’ He rolled up his sleeves. We were out there chopping sea buckthorn, hauling brush, cleaning the town, getting dirty to the max and when we finished he said, “What can I do next to help?” “
Wingfield said voters were skeptical that a write-in candidate could win. “We had to convince people that Margaret was a viable candidate.”
McKenzie, one of two candidates on the ballot, said Tuesday that she knew Ford was a great candidate after throwing her hat in the hat.
“It was well organized,” he said of his write-in campaign. The mayor’s support helped Ford a lot, McKenzie said, and in a small enclave like Birchwood Village, the outgoing mayor knows almost everyone.