Wynfred Russell, a Liberian immigrant and U.S. citizen of four years, extolled the electoral process in Brooklyn Park after last week's hand recount of his razor-tight race for City Council.

That was after the recount confirmed that he had lost by five votes to Robert Mata.

"You take part in these things, and you don't win, but you still walk away feeling like a winner," Russell said.

He and Mata were the top finishers in a special election held Aug. 14, primary day, to fill a West District seat previously held by Jeanette Meyer, a longtime council member who died of lung cancer in May. Mata will serve the remainder of the term, through 2014.

The initial count showed Mata with 536 votes, Russell with 531 and Joseph Meyer Gearin, Meyer's son, with 215. The recount, held Tuesday at City Hall at Russell's request, found the same results.

Mata, Russell, the city clerk and eight election judges presided over the recount. Neither side contested any of the ballots, Mata said afterward.

"It was all done right above board and very transparent," he said, adding with a laugh: "I wasn't nervous about it. I was just very happy when it was over."

For his part, Russell said he was satisfied with the outcome. Reiterating the comments of a colleague who accompanied him to the recount, he marveled at the electoral process.

"He said, 'Wow, if we could only copy and replicate the professionalism with which the election was carried out here,'" Russell said. "It was just amazing to all of us knowing how chaotic things can be. ... Everything was done very amicably."

The five-vote margin, he added, has motivated his friends and followers to work harder next time to get residents to the polls.

"It has become a cliché to say every vote counts," he said. "Now that they see how close the race was ... they're now looking at things differently."

The Minnesota Secretary of State's office does not track local recounts, but Brooklyn Park City Clerk Devin Montero said they're not unusual, especially in primaries, in which several candidates often split a small pool of voters.

In 2008, a recount gave Peter Crema his East District seat over challenger Mark Mata. A 2004 recount between Rich Gates and incumbent Rand Haglund resulted in a tie, which former Mayor Steve Lampi resolved with a flip of a silver dollar coin. Haglund won.

"We're always prepared for a recount," Montero said. "You just anticipate it and have your team ready."

In the race for the second West District seat, Meyer's husband, Terry Gearin, will face former state Rep. John Jordan on Nov. 6.

In the Central District, incumbent Mike Trepanier will face Billy Bishop. Crema, also an incumbent, will face Dakota Huseby. Crema and Huseby emerged 1-2 in their primary, the only one for a council seat.

Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409