Juan “Eddy” Orozco will likely be Wapato’s next mayor.
In unofficial results Tuesday, Orozco was leading Wapato High School teacher Hector Garza with 54 percent of the votes, 211-180.
“I’m happy to be the winner,” Orozco said Tuesday night. “We have a lot of changes to get done in the administration and fixing the cemetery.”
He credited the early results with a concerted effort to get out the city’s Latino vote.
Garza said he was waiting to see if last-minute votes and absentee ballots may shift the election in his favor.
“Thirty-one votes, that’s close,” Garza said, adding that the campaign was a great experience.
In the contested City Council races, Dora Alvarez-Roa was ahead of Rita Alvarado, and Tony “Antonio” Gaytan was the apparent winner over Stephen Diaz.
Alvarez-Roa was leading for the Position 2 spot with 58 percent of the votes, 215-150, while Gaytan was ahead in the Position 5 race with 58 percent of the votes, 212-148.
Alvarez-Roa said she was humbled by the support from the voters.
“There is going to be an amazing opportunity to serve the people of Wapato, with everyone working together,” she said.
Diaz called the election a learning experience for both him and Gaytan, whom he wished well.
“I’m glad Antonio gets that chance to be in there,” Diaz said.
Mayor Tony Guzman, who was eliminated in the August primary, was in a close race for council Position 1 with write-in candidate Jasmine Perez. Guzman had 49 percent of the votes, 155-152.
Orozco, 55, a semi-retired union organizer and former councilman, would inherit a city that is struggling with finances, including closing a $400,000 budget deficit. The financial woes have caused the city to close its pool in recent years; the pool opened this year only because of donations from Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, Legacy Fruit, Yakama Nation Housing Authority and others.
Other issues facing the new mayor include attracting economic development to the city, as well as dealing with a 36 percent tax on water, sewer and garbage bills that critics say hurts the city’s poorest residents. And residents have complained about unkempt graves, gopher infestations and sinking tombstones at the city cemetery.
Ralph Sanchez and Councilman Keith Workman also ran unopposed in this year’s election. Sanchez received 314 votes while Workman was leading write-in candidate Maria Lopez by 55 percent of the votes, 185-150.