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For new mayor, time to 'listen and learn'

Mary Giuliani Stephens won the Woodbury mayor race with nearly 54 percent of the vote in a six-candidate field. She is beginning the transition to replace retiring Mayor Bill Hargis. Staff photo by Scott Wente

Now the real work begins.

That is the approach Mary Giuliani Stephens said she is taking after convincingly winning the Woodbury mayor's seat.

Giuliani Stephens is not sworn in until January, but she said that she wants to talk with city employees to learn about their jobs and continue to build relationships with local business and civic leaders.

"I still have a whole lot to learn about the city," she said.

Giuliani Stephens is completing a four-year term on the City Council, but said it takes several years to really understand local government. That work will continue, she said.

"It's just really listening and learning," she said.

That includes listening to retiring Mayor Bill Hargis. The outgoing mayor said he plans to introduce Giuliani Stephens to the mayors of surrounding communities and to regional groups in the coming weeks. He also wants to suggest ways she can prioritize issues she and the City Council will face.

Hargis said he will help with the transition before January, but then plans to step away from city government.

"I promised I wouldn't be a shadow mayor," he said. "That's why I say I'll answer my phone but I won't be calling or showing up at meetings."

Giuliani Stephens received 10,377 votes in the Nov. 2 election, giving her about 53.7 percent of the vote in the six-person field. Tom Owens came in second with 3,136 votes, good for 16.2 percent.

Owens said he was floored by the results because he thought he ran a solid campaign and had good ideas. He congratulated the winner: "Obviously, people respect Mary Giuliani Stephens tremendously."

"Clearly I did not understand what our citizens wanted in their next mayor, or I failed to get my message out," he said.

Still, Owens said he was grateful for the experience and the chance to meet many residents. He wouldn't rule out future civic involvement.

"I believe I'm going to be involved, but today I have no idea what that involvement is going to be."

The Woodbury mayor serves a four-year term and earns $8,520 annually.

Giuliani Stephens was the first candidate to announce her mayor campaign, and she said voters likely knew of her from her many years of involvement in various civic organizations.

"I think it's probably overall name recognition," she said of the key to her victory. "Although, four years on the council doesn't hurt."

While she won with a majority of the vote, she said there still are many people in Woodbury who do not know her.

"It will be important for me to get out and meet more residents," she said.

Giuliani Stephens will be Woodbury's first female mayor. After she announced earlier this year that she would run for mayor, she said she was approached by two women who told her excitedly that she could be the first woman elected mayor.

"It really didn't cross my mind," she said.