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Published: Thursday, 11/10/2005

Active campaigns pay off for 2 teens

BY ELIZABETH A. SHACK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Derek Merrin thanks Shelby Racey for letting him put a sign in her Waterville yard. Derek Merrin thanks Shelby Racey for letting him put a sign in her Waterville yard.
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Two teenagers - one in Waterville and the other in Hillsdale - showed dedicated campaigning and the offer of new ideas can appeal to voters when they upset incumbents in area races yesterday.

Derek Merrin, 19, was elected to Waterville Village Council, ousting 12-year incumbent Norm Witzler and winning more votes than the two incumbents who were re-elected, Ann Cherry and Lori Brodie.

In the Hillsdale mayoral race, Michael Sessions, an 18-year-old high school senior who ran as a write-in candidate, defeated incumbent Douglas Ingles. After deciding to run when he saw businesses and citizens moving out of Hillsdale, he went door-to-door to talk to voters.

Mr. Merrin, an economics major at Owens Community College, campaigned hard too, mailing 1,050 handwritten postcards and 1,000 letters. He made about 500 phone calls Monday, he said.

"I did think I had a great shot at winning," he said. "I was pleasantly surprised to come up first."

During the campaign, he tried to visit every house in the village, though he said he might have missed a few.

"He came to our house and actually stopped and talked to us," Waterville resident Sarah Batdorf said. "I saw him a lot."

She said none of the other candidates came to her door.

Ms. Batdorf, 18, voted in her first election on Tuesday, casting a vote for Mr. Merrin. A student at Bowling Green State University, she said his age appealed to her, and she thought he would bring a different perspective to council.

Mr. Merrin said his flexible schedule as a student will allow him to focus on council business. This fall, he scheduled all his classes for mornings so he could campaign at night.

A freshman with a semester's worth of college credits earned in high school, he plans to transfer to Bowling Green State University or the University of Toledo in the next year and graduate in three years.

He said he would continue to live with his par-ents in Waterville.

"I thought about running for student government, but I wanted to make sure I won this one instead," he said.

Ms. Cherry, the current vice mayor, said Mr. Merrin would be an asset to council.

"He was very sincere in reaching out to voters," she said.

She said all new council members start out with a lot to learn, and she believes Mr. Merrin will become a fine part of the team.

Ann Harris, who has lived in Waterville nearly 20 years, said she voted for Mr. Merrin because he said he was interested in managing growth and preserving the integrity of the village.

Mr. Merrin has said he wants to preserve Waterville's small town atmosphere and historic heritage.

Mrs. Harris said his age isn't a problem in her eyes and could be a benefit because younger people don't necessarily have as many things to distract them from government.

"A lot of times, they're not as tied down with as many commitments," she said.

Mr. Merrin said he started to think about running for council a few years ago, and began learning about government with that in mind. He is thinking about going to law school and is considering a career in politics.

He said he has worked on campaigns in the past and is looking forward to helping other candidates next year. He plans to watch city spending carefully, and said he would be available to citizens and responsive to their comments.

"Waterville's a great place to live, and I'd like to thank all the voters in Waterville for putting their trust in me," he said.

Contact Elizabeth A. Shack at:

eshack@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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