AUBURN — Republican Mike Ley won election as Auburn’s next mayor Tuesday, capturing 56% of the votes to outpace Democrat Sarah Payne.
In the other only other contested race for city office, Republican Wayne Madden won re-election to the District 1 seat on the Auburn Common Council. Madden received 58% of the votes to hold off Democratic challenger Nora Schwartz.
Ley, 62, will take office Jan. 1, replacing Norm Yoder, who is retiring after 20 years in the mayor’s chair.
Ley, said he and his wife, Sara, prayed about his decision to run for mayor and have been following God’s plan.
“I do believe He has a path laid out for the city of Auburn, and I do believe I’m a part of guiding us down that path,” Ley said. “With His guidance and our prayerful consideration as a community, I see that we can’t go wrong.”
Ley said his in conversations with voters, he learned, “They want to maintain what Auburn is, and why it makes us so special, and we want to do that. We’re going to enhance it, we’re going to grow it and we”re going to add to it, but we’re not going to change it. Auburn’s going to be just as great in four years as it is today, as it has been for 119 years.”
During his campaign, Ley emphasized his experience as a former building administrator for the city from 1986-1999. He said during his tenure with the city, he served as an assistant to Mayor Norman Rohm.
After leaving city government, Ley went into private business as owner of Signature Construction in Auburn.
Payne, 42, campaigned on the strength of her experience with Auburn Main Street, an organization that has promoted several events and improvements in downtown Auburn. She works with the Parkview DeKalb Foundation, based at Parkview DeKalb Hospital in Auburn.
During his victory speech, Ley stopped to take a phone call from Payne, congratulating him on his victory.
“We knew we were the underdog,” Payne said later. “We knew we were going to have to work harder, we were going to have to be more strategic, and I think we did work harder. It’s just a tough battle in Auburn.”
Payne came much closer than the typical 2-to-1 margin that Republicans enjoy in most Auburn elections.
“I think for our community, we sparked a conversation that we hadn’t had in a long time,” Payne said. “I think we engaged more people than we had in a long time, and all of that, for me, is really inspiring. Hopefully, we can keep those conversations happening, keep the openness in our community. I think all of that’s really important.”
Both Ley and Payne were making their first campaigns for elected office.
Raised in Avilla, Ley graduated from East Noble High School in 1975 as a classmate of Todd Fiandt, who won re-election as mayor of Garrett in Tuesday’s vote. Fiandt, the election’s lone Democratic winner in DeKalb County, captured 61% of votes to defeat Republican challenger Larry Getts.
Madden, 72, a retired insurance agent, served as president of Lions Club International earlier in the decade.
“I really look forward to continuing my service on the Auburn City Council. I’ve enjoyed it very much,” Madden said at Tuesday’s Republican gathering.
Madden added, “I look forward to working with Mike. I think he has the vision that’s going to carry Auburn forward into the future,”
Like Payne, Schwartz, 38, has worked actively with Auburn Main Street. She serves as an area development manager for Junior Achievement in three northeast Indiana counties, including DeKalb.