BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Unofficial results from the Blue Ridge Mayoral and City Council elections were tallied late Tuesday evening, Nov. 7, at City Hall.
After six hotly contested races, Mayor Donna Whitener, Post 1 City Council Member Harold Herndon and Post 2 City Council Member Rhonda Thomas retained positions while candidates Kenneth Gaddis, Robbie Cornelius and Nathan Fitts will all take oaths as Post 3, 4 and 5 city council members, respectively, in January.
Incumbent Whitener defeated local business owner Brendan Doyle 288 to 185 in the mayor’s race. Whitener described the night’s results as “extremely exciting.”
“I have a really good council going in. They have lots of experience, lots of knowledge. They’re going to bring a lot to the table at Blue Ridge. I can’t wait for the next four years,” the mayor stated. “We’re going to focus on infrastructure. We have some serious issues there (with) upgrading infrastructure (and) the same thing we’ve been doing: paving roads. We’re going to continue to keep working toward keeping a vibrant downtown.”
Herndon was re-elected in what became an uncontested contest after candidate Jane Whaley failed to qualify for the election because of city residency requirements and the Georgia Supreme Court ultimately denied her appeal of city Election Superintendent Barbie Gerald’s ruling to remove Whaley from the ballot following a Sept. 25 hearing with Whaley, her attorney, Frank Moore, and City Attorney David Syfan. Herndon received 317 total votes in the election while several uncounted ballots cast showed abstention in the Post 1 election, according to Gerald.
The Post 1 incumbent said he was “looking forward to another four years” on the council.
“We’ll just see how things work out. You just never know – no matter who it is or where they come from – whether you’re going to get along with them or not or whether you share some of the same opinions,” Herndon said of the council elect.
While admitting the new council had several challenges on the horizon, Herndon explained, “You’ve got to look at finances and see how (the city is) sitting … There’s a lot of things that have to come together before you can even come to a decision about what you might be able to do.”
In the Post 2 race, incumbent Rhonda Thomas won over downtown business owner Angelina Powell with 255 votes to Powell’s 223. After the final tally, Thomas said she was “thrilled with the results.”
“I think everyone who will be on this council are going to do a fabulous job. It’s a diverse group of people who have great ideas, and we’re going to come together for the benefit of the city, for the residents and for the businesses, and we’re going to make a difference,” Thomas stated. “Blue Ridge should be excited about their choices.”
Citing parking and city infrastructure improvement as key challenges facing the new council, Thomas was optimistic of the city’s future. “You’ll see a huge difference in this city in the next four years,” she added.
Whitener, Herndon and Thomas will all be entering their third terms, each having served since 2010.
Challenger Gaddis defeated incumbent Angie Arp in the Post 3 race taking 288 votes to Arp’s 186. “It feels great; it feels amazing,” council member elect Gaddis said after his win.
“I’m excited to work with the citizens. That’s my key. We are a council, but we are working with the citizens,” Gaddis added.
Receiving 255 votes to Mike Jacobs’ 205, Cornelius won the open seat of Post 4.
Cornelius shared the sentiments of all the other winning candidates of the night and was excited to begin on the city council. Relieved that the campaign was over, Cornelius laughed, “I’m tired. I’ve been out in the rain all day (campaigning).”
In the closest race of the night, Fitts overtook David Stuart by 20 votes, receiving a total of 244 in the open contest for Post 5.
“We’re going to work on parking (and) the infrastructure of the water lines and sewer lines,” the council member elect said of city needs. “Hopefully, we can make it so streamlined we can all get along and do things a little more professionally.”
According to Gerald, 486 total ballots were cast in the 2017 election. Of that sum, 221 ballots were cast on Election Day, 229 were early voting and 36 were absentees. “If I’m not mistaken, that’s probably a record (turnout),” Gerald said of the election.
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