Ken Thomas is swapping his white helmet for a gavel.
The longtime Scribner fire chief launched a write-in candidacy on Sept. 23 and made a late campaign push to wrest the Scribner mayor’s office from Dale Rangeloff.
Thomas pulled 193 votes in Tuesday’s general election, compared to 136 votes for Rangeloff.
Rangeloff was elected to the city council in 2006, and became mayor two years ago when Lorence Stumpe resigned.
“The people have spoken,” Rangeloff said on Wednesday, “and I just hope the best for Scribner and (that) things continue the way I believe they’ve been going.
“Basically, everything that I’ve done or been part of I’ve been proud of. I just have no regrets of anything that we’ve accomplished in the past as a city,” he said.
Thomas said he was “pleasantly surprised” at Tuesday’s outcome.
“A write-in candidacy is always a tough thing,” Thomas said. “Your name’s not on the ballot, so you have to make sure that they write it in and vote the proper way. We were certainly thankful to everybody that supported us, and we had a ton of support around the town.”
Thomas, 55, said he was “concerned about the direction that our city government was headed in,” when he filed his candidacy.
That same day, Phil Cordes launched a write-in candidacy for city council. Cordes, however, was unsuccessful, garnering 138 votes. Joe Roberts (226 votes) and Don J. Dostal (187) won the two open city council seats.
Dostal, 61, and Roberts, 36, will serve their first full terms on the council after Dostal was appointed a year ago to fill the remainder of a term, and Roberts filled a vacancy in January 2013.
Thomas, a lifelong Scribner resident and the owner of Lohmeyer Plumbing and Heating, said his familiarity with the people of the community and involvement in numerous organizations likely prompted voter support.
“You meet people every day and they know you,” he said. “Their vote indicated that they’re going to put some trust in me. I think those things help, when you’ve been here a long time, and I’ve always tried to help serve the community. To me, it’s always been about service. The mayor and the city council serve the people, not the other way around, and when you belong to organizations that do that, I think people recognize that.”
He has been a member of the Scribner Volunteer Fire Department for 34 years and its chief for the past 24 years. Thomas also serves on the Scribner Planning Commission, the LB840 Citizens Advisory Committee, and has been involved in numerous other organizations. He was a member of the Housing Corporation and continues to serve on the Industrial Improvement Corporation.
As he steps into the mayor’s office, Thomas will resign from the Planning Commission and Citizens Advisory Committee.
He will continue to be a member of the fire department, but will step down as chief.
“We have a firemen’s meeting this Thursday night, and I’m going to talk to the firemen about the future of the fire department,” he said. “I’m going to stay on the fire department, but I think it will be in a diminished role, it will be whatever the new chief wants me to do ... but I believe it would be best if I stepped down as chief. It’s just too much of a responsibility to try to do all of it. We have a lot of capable guys and capable gals on the fire department and the rescue squad.”
Scribner has “some pretty big things on the plate,” including a $3.2 million water infrastructure improvement project, Thomas said.
“We’ve got this water project coming up ... the bidding process for that that will be starting before you know it, so we have to continue with that,” he said.
Scribner leaders also have to manage an estimated $3 million donation from the Ken Furstenau estate. A former resident, Furstenau died last March.
“There will have to be some decisions made on that,” Thomas said. “Some of those might be made by the time I get in and some may not, so we’ll have to do what the community feels is best with that money.”
Attracting businesses and jobs to Scribner’s industrial site will be another focus, he said.
“Then there’s the constant day-to-day operations of the city, that is a big enough job,” he continued. “I know the guys that work for the city and we want to work together and get things done and make our little town as good as it can be.”