WATERVILLE — Ward 5 City Councilor John O’Donnell will remain in his seat after an effort to recall him was defeated by voters 270-257 Tuesday, according to unofficial results.

“I think that’s fantastic,” said Jay Coelho, a Libertarian who started a petition to recall O’Donnell following his temporary appointment to the seat in April. “It wasn’t about me or John. It was about giving the people of Ward 5 a vote. The people of Ward 5 spoke. It was a slim margin and that just shows John has a lot of work to do to show his constituents he cares.”

O’Donnell, meanwhile, said he anticipated the ward supporting him.

“It was an off-season election, and frankly I don’t think they got the numbers they thought they were going to,” O’Donnell said. “It is what it is. I think it was kind of silly for Jay to bring it up just because he could, but I encourage him to run if he thinks he can do a better job.”

The results are unofficial until the City Council verifies and approves them.

O’Donnell, a Democrat who previously served on the council about 10 years, was appointed to the seat temporarily in April to fill a seat vacated by Nick Champagne, who took a job as the city engineer. The appointment is through November, at which point O’Donnell could choose to run for re-election.

Councilors who made the appointment received backlash for the decision from supporters of Julian Payne, another candidate who sought the seat and packed council chambers with supporters the night of the decision.

Coelho later started a petition to recall O’Donnell, saying he felt councilors didn’t listen to the will of residents when they voted to appoint O’Donnell. Coelho also said he was influenced by a recent movement to recall Republican Mayor Nick Isgro.

“When this opportunity came up, I saw what they did to Nick, and I was like, ‘Oh, there’s a neat little process,’ and it snowballed from there,” Coelho said at the time.

Voters Tuesday also rejected the mayoral recall 1,563-1,472.

Coelho said he was happy residents of Ward 5 were able to voice their opinions, even if that meant ultimately sticking with the councilors’ choice of O’Donnell.

“It’s not an endorsement of what the councilors did, but it allowed people to have a voice,” he said. “It was a really small margin, so that shows a lot of people are upset with the way things work.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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