MEDINA — Gary Werner emerged as the winner Tuesday for Medina Municipal Court judge.
Werner, 55, amassed 10,102 votes (41.03 percent). Candidate Bob Campbell was runner-up with 9,260 votes (37.61 percent) and J.R. Russell was third with 5,259 votes (21.36 percent), according to unofficial results from the Medina County Board of Elections.
“This is something I’ve thought about for 30 years of my life,” Werner said. “I’m trying to digest all this. I’ll get a chance to serve the community in this capacity.”
Werner, an attorney at Berns, Ockner & Greenberger, spent the night tracking results on the Medina County Board of Elections’ website.
“Once the results popped up, there was general excitement in my home,” he said.
For the first time in more than 30 years, there will be a new face behind the bench in Medina Municipal Court. Dale H. Chase is retiring at the end of December.
“I’m grateful to Judge Chase for serving 30 years,” Werner said. “I’ll learn much from him. He’s devoted a large part of his life to this service.”
Werner is a former mayor of Brunswick, serving 2010-13. He also presided over Brunswick Mayor’s Court and as a magistrate in that court.
He said he thought he was the best candidate for the position because of his experience in an elected office.
Werner said it’s hard to say what pushed him over the top in this election.
“This is my eighth campaign,” he said, counting primary elections. “My attitude is to tell voters who you are and what you’re going to do and then respect their decision.”
Werner said it’s been a very busy year on the campaign trail.
“I got to meet a lot of people in the district,” he said. “It’s an important job with a lot of responsibilities. I’m excited to do the job well.
“I’m always grateful to the voters. They’ve shown a lot of confidence in me, which I respect. It will reflect in my service over the next six years.”
His experience as mayor and as a Brunswick councilman can only help in his new role, he said.
“I spent a decade bearing responsibility for managing public funds, departmental budgets, capital facility and infrastructure planning, personnel and staffing matters, equipment purchases and municipal services,” he said previously. “The municipal court judge position involves more than just legal skills.
“That judge runs a public office, with a departmental budget, and is responsible for capital facility planning, personnel and staffing matters, equipment, etc.”
Werner is married to Lori and has two children, Megan and Max.
Campbell, 50, owns his own practice in Medina. He was a former assistant prosecutor in Medina Country.
Campbell wasn’t available Tuesday for comment.
He has said he’s tried about 560 cases in municipal court.
“I have served as acting judge in the Medina Municipal Court over 80 times,” he said before the election. “Neither of my opponents has ever served as acting judge in any court. It appears their interest in the court began when Judge Chase announced his retirement.”
He said before the election he had the most “extensive and diverse experience” of the three candidates.
“I have committed my life and career to Medina County,” Campbell said. “I grew up here, raised my children here and have devoted my entire career to serving the people of Medina County.”
Russell, an attorney at Goldman & Rosen Ltd. and municipal prosecutor for Lodi Village, said the big difference in the race was name recognition.
“I was running against two astute politicians,” he said Tuesday night.
“Of course, I’m disappointed. But I’m proud of the race we ran. We left everything out on the table. Truly, there’s not much more we could have given to this election.”
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.