BY KEVIN PRISE AND HOWARD BALABAN
Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — Fred Miller claimed all along that he sensed the people of Orleans County were clamoring for a change.
For the most part, the status quo held, but not in county legislative District 3. Miller, a Democrat, defeated 10-year Republican incumbent Henry Smith Jr. of Gaines by a 900-607 clip.
Miller, who currently holds a spot on the Albion Village Board and has owned and operated Family True Value Hardware for three decades, won Gaines by a 317-275 vote count and extended the margin in his hometown to secure the victory.
Miller was joined by Democratic peers running for county legislature at campaign headquarters, Pullman Church, as the results came in Tuesday night. Miller's race was the first announced on site, before all five other contested legislature races were called for Republicans.
Although he admitted it would be a challenge to join county government as a member of the political minority, Miller said he's happy to see the results back up his belief that people want leaders who are accessible and committed to questioning things from a common perspective.
"I can't wait to dig in," Miller said. "Especially regarding the nursing home, I want to look at all possible angles, and make sure that every stone will be unturned. We need to listen to the people and figure out what we can do."
Miller said that one of his first orders of business will be trying to halt the practice of holding county legislature meetings during the workday. He said if meetings are held at night, when more citizens can attend, more people will be have the opportunity to raise their concerns.
Miller has said throughout the campaign that he is in it for the people, and his sentiment remained the same upon learning of his victory. Although he was disappointed to see his fellow Democrats lose, he promised to do what he could to ensure that the effort extended by his party throughout the campaign will not go to waste. As fellow Democrats came to terms with their defeats, Miller accepted a steady stream of congratulations from the entire room.
"I'm pretty emotional right now," Miller said just minutes after learning of his victory. "I can't believe it. I'm excited to keep learning."
Meanwhile, at The Pillars, news of Smith's defeat was greeted with sounds of disappointment from his fellow GOP incumbents.
Smith said he felt he had been doing a good job for the county, and the people in his district, for the past 10 years.
"I'm disappointed," he said, adding that he had felt good about his chances heading into election day.
"I'd spoken with many people who gave me a very positive response," Smith said. "I guess the nursing home was a big issue, and if Fred can make some changes there, I'll support him. He's my legislator now. The majority has spoken."
Smith said he thanks the people of Albion and Gaines for "allowing me the opportunity serve them. It has been a pleasure to do so, and I hope I've made a positive impact."