ELKHART — Brian Dickerson, a 23-year-old who has been attending Elkhart City Council meetings for about three years, was chosen by 22 older Republicans to fill the vacancy on city council Thursday night.
Dickerson topped Adam Bujalski, 30, in the fifth round of voting by precinct committee members in a caucus that took just more than two hours to complete.
Dickerson edged Bujalski by a 12-10 vote and is possibly the youngest person to ever become an Elkhart City Council member.
The announcement was made by county party chairman Dale Stickel and Dickerson was immediately handed a council packet for Monday’s upcoming meeting by fellow councilman David Henke amid laughter and applause.
“I have much work to do this weekend, but I will be prepared for Monday — assuming I get the opportunity to be sworn in before that,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson replaces Kyle Hannon, an at-large council representative, who resigned last month after being named president of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce.
The winner was appreciative and quick to tip his hat to Bujalski. He and Bujalski both ran unsuccessfully in the 2011 city council election.
“I want to congratulate Adam Bujalski on an absolutely wonderful race. He ran great in the Sixth District and he ran great tonight. I look forward to working with him in the future,” Dickerson said.
Afterward, Dickerson said his priority would be simple: “Serving the people.”
The selection process quickly narrowed between Dickerson, Bujalski and former mayor Dave Miller. The three collected 17 votes in the first round.
The three-way contest pitted youth versus experience, but Jason Obendorf, a precinct committee member who is co-chair with Bujalski on the Elkhart County Young Republicans organization, shied away from suggesting the caucus results represented a youth movement.
Instead, Obendorf said, it probably came down to the fact that both finalists had run strong grass roots campaigns in the last election that helped them connect with voters and the party.
Dickerson said the results bode well for the party.
“If you look at recent elections, you will find trends leaning toward the next generation willing to serve their community,” Dickerson said.
Dickerson is an electrician with the family-run business, Final Phase Electric Company. He is a 2007 graduate of Elkhart Memorial High School and a native of the city.
He was the top vote-getter in every round.
Other candidates included David Pixey, Pam Kurpgeweit, David Bontrager, Steve Gruber, Bill Schweinzger, Jim Gouker and Ed Higy.
Stickel said he was impressed with how the candidates presented themselves and the turnout among precinct committee members. In past caucuses, the party has had trouble getting a strong turnout among precinct members, but on Thursday, they only had two absences.
The 10 candidates represent one of the biggest turnouts for a caucus in recent memory, Stickel said.
The caucus could very well be a preview of upcoming council campaigns. More than half indicated they have an interest in running for council in the future.