Fribis wins re-election over Stephens, but says she’s glad a long, ‘vicious’ race is over


John Stephens, left, and Pat Fribis, right.

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

Sunset Hills will remain under the guidance of Mayor Pat Fribis after the two-term incumbent won her re-election bid against political newcomer John Stephens last week, following a long-drawn-out race that was delayed due to COVID-19.

Fribis collected 1,117 votes, or 55.82 percent, to defeat Stephens, who earned 884 votes or 44.18 percent.

Stephens declined The Call’s request for comment for this article.

Also up for grabs in Sunset Hills last week were four aldermanic seats — incumbent Thompson Price defeated Drew Hrach in Ward 4, newcomer Cathy Friedmann defeated incumbent Kurt Krueger in Ward 3 and incumbents Ann McMunn and Casey Wong were unopposed in Ward 1 and Ward 2, respectively.

Although it was not her first time campaigning for mayor — she defeated three other candidates in a four-way race for her first term in office in 2016 — Fribis told The Call that the race this time around was challenging, not just due to the coronavirus but also due to a “vicious, unwarranted campaign.”

“It turned out to be a very vicious, very unwarranted campaign. It was making our city look bad and that’s just not right,” said Fribis, referring in part to accusations made against her by Ward 1 Alderman Dee Baebler earlier this year and an ethics complaint filed against her by McMunn late in the race. “I was shocked… It was too long of a campaign. People were tired of the signs, they were tired of stuff — but fortunately, a lot of them did come out to vote.”

Ward 2 Alderman Steve Bersche wrote a letter to The Call supporting Fribis, stating that she is backed by six of eight aldermen.

Despite the election tension, Fribis said she prides herself on running a positive campaign that focused on ongoing and future developments in Sunset Hills.

“I kept it very positive, I kept it based on my accomplishments and my beliefs in the city… I kept it focused on myself and what I believe,” said Fribis. “I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”

Fribis’ involvement in the city goes back prior to her time as mayor. As a resident, she petitioned for the city to build its first municipal pool, as Finance Committee chairwoman she helped create the position of city administrator and as mayor she has seen over $100 million in new development projects, including two new hotels and a once-contested Tidal Wave car wash/gas station with a Kaldi’s Coffee and a Smoothie King.

“We have the Tidal Wave going in and I know that was a big controversy because the people on East Watson didn’t want that, but in campaigning a lot of them said, ‘Man, after I thought about it, I think it’s going to be fine.’ They’re (Tidal Wave) bringing in basically five new businesses,” said Fribis. “It looks a lot better than that old Econo Lodge that was there.”

Following her victory June 2, Fribis spoke with Stephens and encouraged him to fill out a volunteer form to get involved with the city, and also called to congratulate Friedmann on her election as alderman.

“I woke up and had so many congratulatory texts, emails, different things. It was just very heartwarming to me,” said Fribis. “It just made me feel so good.”

As she looks toward her third two-year term as mayor, Fribis plans to prioritize keeping commercial areas commercial and residential areas residential.

“I know a lot of people don’t want more commercial, they want to keep things, especially like Court Drive, residential, and that’s top priority… I want to keep our parks all very nice and good for our community and of course, finances,” said Fribis, adding that filling the vacant Toys “R” Us store is another priority.

The mayor also hopes to see more people get involved in the city and invites them to go to the city website and fill out an interest form to serve on a committee.

“We’d love to have new people on committees to voice their opinions and suggestions,” said Fribis. “Get involved.”