SHEBOYGAN — Voters in Sheboygan took to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to keep their embattled mayor, Bob Ryan or replace him with a former alderman and state representative, Terry Van Akkeren. Ryan conceded the race to Van Akkeren around 10 p.m. Tuesday night.
Van Akkeren says he’ll begin his job as mayor on March 5th.
He’ll be serving the rest of Ryan’s term ending April 15th of 2013.
The Sheboygan City Clerk’s Office says a non-presidential election can mean a voter turnout of about 30 percent. Tuesday’s election was expected to surpass that total by a wide margin.
Van Akkeren’s supporters met up at Sheboygan’s City Hall Monday, on the eve of the recall election against Mayor Bob Ryan. Van Akkeren called for the city of Sheboygan to avoid negative headlines moving forward.
Mayor Ryan admits to providing the scandalous news, but said if voters consider his work record, including economic development, he’s the best man for the job. “I believe we’re heading in a forward direction. Nobody says I haven’t followed through on those plans,” Ryan said.
This past summer, Ryan, a self-described alcoholic, went on a drinking binge in Elkhart Lake. In 2009, a YouTube video surfaced of Ryan making lewd comments about a family member.
Monday, city meetings kept Ryan from campaigning. “By me doing my job today, rather than chanting on the steps of City Hall, says something about my character,” Ryan said.
Sheboygan City Clerk Sue Richards says she expects about 15,000 to vote Tuesday in Sheboygan’s first mayoral recall election. “It’s going to be historic. Basically, we’ve never had an election like this before. I think 50 percent (voter turnout) is a reasonable number,” Richards said.
Van Akkeren visited voters in a Sheboygan north side neighborhood Sunday afternoon. “This is one of the larger wards with the larger turnouts,” Van Akkeren said.
Incumbent Mayor Bob Ryan said he did the same this weekend – visiting homes and posting signs to once again ask voters to put him back in office.
Van Akkeren and Ryan faced off back in 2009, but Tuesday’s election was triggered because enough Sheboygan residents wanted Ryan to face this recall.
Ryan says he’s been sober for more than 200 days, and his economic focus will be the difference in this election. “One thing I can promise is that my personal life won’t be an issue,” Ryan said.
Van Akkeren believes voters are looking for change, and wants to avoid negative headlines in the future. “I’ve had people say they’ve had enough of Bob Ryan, and it’s time to close the book on the chapter of Bob Ryan in Sheboygan,” Van Akkeren said.
Van Akkeren is forecasting between 40 to 50 percent voter turnout for Tuesday’s election, and says that may give him the edge. “The better the turnout, the better chance we have of winning,” Van Akkeren said.
“I don’t think high or low voter turnout benefits anybody. At this point, I think most voter’s minds are made up,” Ryan said.