Lakewood City Councilwoman Meghan George defeated Sam O'Leary in the race for Mayor of Lakewood Tuesday. George will succeed Mayor Mike Summers and assume leadership in one of the region's largest and densest suburbs.
In an evening full of narrow victories across Cuyahoga County, George's over O'Leary was one of the narrowest. George tallied 5,716 votes to O'Leary's 5,551, a margin of only 165, (or 1.5 percent).
Replete with mailers, phone calls, and accusations of misconduct and illegitimate endorsements
, the mayoral race became a proxy battle between Lakewood's factionalized Democrats. George said that the margin of victory is both a testament to the importance of her campaign volunteers and also a clear message that building unity across the city will be paramount.
"Bringing this community together will be my mission over the next four years," she said. "I'm thrilled for the support I have, but there's a lot of work to be done."
George told Scene that while the most recent divisions stemmed largely from the 2015 Lakewood Hospital closure
, political friction is not new to Lakewood. Her father, Thomas George, was elected mayor in 2004 and faced a similar political dynamic, with the West End development project serving as the wedge issue.
"His goal then, and my goal now, is to heal," she said.
George said her main feeling right now, though, is excitement.
"I'm excited to serve full-time and being moving Lakewood forward," she said. "And I'm so proud of my campaign. Anyone who has worked on a political campaign knows that it's a team effort. And there's no way I could've done what I did without each and every one of my supporters. We needed every single vote, so every phone call, every yard sign, every piece of literature left on a door handle made a difference."
Councilman Tristan Rader, one of George's earliest and staunchest supporters, said the results of the race show that Lakewood is ready for change.
"Sam O'Leary ran a hard, competitive race," he said. "But ultimately, he was running to continue the legacy of Mayor Mike Summers, and people were ready for a new vision."
Rader acknowledged that Summers, in many respects, has been a successful, effective mayor, citing specifically his work on sewer reconstruction.
"People do want to see that continued level of detail-oriented work," Rader said. "And that's our job on council, to keep providing that level of service. But we also need to improve community relations, to build trust. It was a very close election, so there's work to do."
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.