Kowalski elected to Hudson City Council, charter amendments approved

Staff Report
From left, Rosalind Robertson, Mary Ann Shawcross, and Beverly Dorson, all of Hudson, were on hand at the Hudson Library earlier during election season to help people with voter registration and assistance with requesting an absentee ballot.

HUDSON — Voters have picked Nicole Kowalski to fill the unexpired term of Dr. J Daniel Williams, who resigned from his at-large city council seat in March. Kowalski's term will expire Dec. 7, 2021.

According to final, but unofficial results, Kowalski got 5,111 votes (40.3%) in the three-way race, beating Sarah Norman, who had 4,760 (37.6%) and Sherif Mansour, who received 2,801 votes (22.1%).

The special election was set after council was unable to reach a consensus on any of 18 applicants for the vacancy. Per the charter, a special election was thus required to fill the seat.

Kowalski thanked her supporters who helped with her campaign, particularly her family members and her husband, Ross. 

"I believe that my non-partisan approach and an issues-based campaign is what resonated with voters," stated Kowalski. "The hours I spent carefully outlining my vision for Hudson is what I believe impacted the outcome the most."

Kowalski said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she sensed many voters were "uncomfortable" with some of the traditional approaches to campaigning.

"It is my belief that reaching the voters in creative and non-traditional ways was appreciated and made them feel heard," she said.

Kowalski said her top priority is to collaborate with her fellow legislators to "make meaningful progress" on issues such as Downtown Phase II and connectivity.

Regarding Phase II, Kowalski said she hopes to "collaborate on the right plan for Hudson and go into this next step of downtown development with open minds."

She added she hoped she can be a unifier on council.

"Many feel that Hudson is divided over several issues, so I hope I can be a positive voice and deliver the unity that our city and our council needs," said Kowalski.

Mansour said running for office is "difficult" and noted he was "grateful" for his team that helped him with his campaign.

"It is clear to me that I had no idea what I was getting myself into," said Mansour. "I think that much must be clear to anyone who was paying attention to my myriad of mistakes throughout the campaign."

He said his message about needing a return to civility and neighborliness resonated with voters. 

"I truly believe that Hudson is looking for leaders who are going to lead with dignity and honesty," said Mansour. "I think Hudson is through with back-room deals, and the lack of compromise that has so often recently been the status quo at city hall."

Mansour said he is hoping to run for council in 2021.

"I will continue to find ways to be involved, and to serve where I can, and when next year's election rolls around, I hope to find myself once again on the ballot, looking to serve my neighbors," said Mansour.

Norman said she was "profoundly grateful" to everyone who helped with her campaign and noted residents "really appreciated my mature life experience and deep roots in Hudson. People understand that that kind of leadership has protected Hudson's charm and uniqueness."

Norman observed the city's charter review commission has not updated the election process to allow for a run-off or primary election to narrow the field before the general election.

"We now have back-to-back election results where the 'winners' were chosen by less than a majority of the voters," said Norman. "Until we fix that, we will be stuck with this kind of election result and the abuse that it permits."

Looking ahead, Norman said she is planning to run for the at-large seat in the November 2021 election, and added she was "overwhelmed" with requests from citizens "within hours of the final results" to run for the four-year term.

City voters also approved four proposed charter amendments that appeared on the ballot as Issues 16, 17, 18 and 19.

Issue 16, approved 8.895 to 3,326, clarifies the number of affirmative votes council needs to suspend the three-reading rule for voting on legislation and calls on council to “seek to achieve broad geographical representation” when considering appointments to city boards, commissions and committees.

Issue 17, approved 9,919 to 2,219, requires that council ensure each of the four wards in the city is represented by at least one member of the planning commission.

Issue 18, approved 9,498 to 3,001, requires that any increase in maximum net density “in any zoning district for any dwelling type” must be approved by six of the seven members of council.

Issue 19, approved 7,676 to 3,469, includes numerous provisions and clarifications to city functions, including changes to requirements for publication of notices.