Brooks back on council

Published 12:48 am Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Washington city Councilman Bobby Roberson (left) looks over election returns with the Rev. David Moore at the Beaufort County Board of Elections Tuesday night. (WDN Photo/Jonathan Clayborne)

Three-vote margin separates No. 5, No. 6 vote-getters


Washington’s City Council will have one new face — OK, a not-so-new face — when the winners of Tuesday’s council election take office next month.

That not-so-new face of Richard Brooks, who held off incumbent Gil Davis by three votes to take the final spot on the council, will give the five-member council three minority members.

If unofficial vote totals hold up, joining Brooks on the council will be Bobby Roberson (674 votes), Ed Moultrie Jr. (665 votes), Doug Mercer (641 votes), William Pitt (601 votes) and Brooks (559 votes).

Falling short in their council bids were Davis (556 votes), Lloyd May (546 votes) and Rick Gagliano (489 votes).

Mayor Archie Jennings, who faced no opposition, received 913 votes, or 98.85 percent of the vote. Write-in candidates received the other 1.15 percent.

All vote totals are unofficial until the Beaufort County Board of Elections canvasses the ballots Tuesday. That process begins at 11 a.m. at the board’s offices.

The canvassing process, which includes reviewing provisional ballots, could result in vote totals for some candidates changing, possibly changing the unofficial results.

“It was a very smooth election,” said Kellie Harris Hopkins, Beaufort County’s elections director. “It’s been an uneventful day.”

Overall voter turnout in the seven municipal elections was 20 percent, Hopkins said.

As he was in 2009, Roberson was the top vote-getter among council candidates.

“One of the things I’ve always looked forward to is working inside the community. Washington is my hometown. I had an opportunity to go away and come back. I think I have a, hopefully, a good attitude. I try to treat people the way I want to be treated,” Roberson said about his successful re-election bid. “I think the voters recognize that. I look forward to working with the new member of the council. Hopefully, we can develop a team like we have in the past and move forward in the right direction.”

If the new council, which takes office next month, follows tradition, it will elect the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s election as mayor pro tempore. The mayor pro tempore presides over council meetings when the mayor is absent from a council meeting or otherwise unable to preside over council meetings.

Moultrie confessed excitement at his re-elevation.

“More work for us to do,” he said of the incoming council’s mandate. “I’m just happy to the people who have entrusted me to represent this city for a second term. I’m looking forward to working with the new council and moving ahead and doing the work of the city.”

Mercer is a returning incumbent, a longtime councilman who has spent periods on and off the city’s governing body.

“I’m glad I was re-elected and I appreciated the votes,” said Mercer, who finished third among the eight council candidates. “I’m pleased with the outcome, obviously. I’d like to look at the numbers and decide what they mean.”

A glad-handing Pitt appeared relieved as the election results were unveiled Tuesday night at the Beaufort County Board of Elections’ offices in Washington.

Numeric signs of his victory, projected on a screen at the board’s main reception area, were met with cheers from a number of the pair’s supporters, among them Beaufort County Commissioner Ed Booth.

“I am relieved,” Pitt acknowledged. “This is a nonelection. There is not a strong issue for the voters so the voters that turned out expressed a combination of frustration and concern that no matter what happened they were going to vote and no matter what happened their choice was heard.”

Asked what his mission will be during his second two-year term, Pitt replied, “The mandate is what the public is demanding of us. … Responsibility and accountability from the entire council.”

“I think that the Lord worked on the people’s hearts and giving me another chance to get back on the City Council,” said Richard Brooks, a former councilman who won a new two-year term on the council after being defeated in 2009. It will be his fourth term on the council.

Asked if he had an agenda he planned to follow once he returns to the council, Brooks said, “No more than what I’ve said: be fair and do what’s right.”

Brooks said he believes his door-to-door campaigning, the mailing of letters and postcards and radio addresses were instrumental in his bid to return to the council.

Mercer won the endorsement of the Vote Washington City Council political action committee, which worked to elect self-identified conservative candidates.

The PAC’s preferred slate included Mercer and newcomers Lloyd May and Rick Gagliano. Had these three men been elected, the PAC’s slate would have had a majority on the five-member council.

May and Gagliano were informally endorsed by a search subcommittee of the Beaufort County Republican Party.

City Council races are nonpartisan, but GOP leaders said they wanted more conservative leadership on the council.

Though neither May nor Gagliano achieved victory in this their first attempt at winning council seats, May indicated he might try again in some future election.

“I’ve learned a lot. I’ve met a lot of people, and the experience was good,” he said, later adding, “I may do this again.”

May said he believed the issue of rates charged by the city-owned Washington Electric Utilities was “pushed well again.”

He said he’d continue to ensure that issue remains at the forefront as a member of the city’s Electric Utilities Advisory Commission.

Gagliano and Davis couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday night.