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Adkins, Young, Caudle, Spence win seats; Hummer leads Stimatz by one vote

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Gabriel Adkins, who was elected to a seat on City Council in Elizabeth City's Second Ward on Tuesday, takes a breather from campaigning outside the city's North precinct at Konbbs Creek Recreation Center.

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From staff reports

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The new city council seated in Elizabeth City in December will see only a few new faces as a result of Tuesday’s municipal election.

Based on unofficial results, only one incumbent, Second Ward Councilor Tony Stimatz, appeared to lose his bid for re-election, falling just one vote short of claiming the ward’s second council seat.

Finishing first in the Second Ward and apparently elected outright was Gabriel Adkins — the first African American to win election in the ward. Adkins finished with 258 votes, followed by incumbent Councilor Anita Hummer with 231 votes and Stimatz with 230 votes.

Elections staff cautioned Tuesday night that provisional ballots may still be counted in the race, which could change the final order of Stimatz’s and Hummer’s finishes in the race. Those votes could also determine whether one of them is eligible to call for a runoff election.

Returned to council for new terms were Fourth Ward incumbent Councilors Johnnie Walton and Darius Horton, winning 387 and 329 votes, respectively. Challenger Jason Gillis came in third with 185 votes. 

Also returning are Third Ward incumbent Councilor Rickey King and Kem Spence, a former councilor who won election. Spence won 243 votes, followed by 197 for King. A late write-in effort for incumbent Councilor Michael Brooks appears to have failed, though write-ins won 139 votes, more than the 99 that challenger Linwood Gallop received.

Joining the council will be two new councilors in the First Ward, Jeannie Young and Billy Caudle, who defeated three other candidates to claim the two seats being vacated by Jean Baker and Ray Donnelly, both of whom chose not to seek re-election.

Caudle won 576 votes, followed by Young with 490. Challengers Bridget Colbert, Frank Caruso and Alice Redding each won less than half as many votes as Young. Both Caudle and Young built commanding leads among early voters; he collected 451 early votes while she garnered 368.

Total turnout for Tuesday’s election was 18.2 percent. That’s less than the turnout two years ago when turnout was just under 20 percent.

Voters interviewed outside polling stations across the city on Tuesday gave a range of reasons for their choices. Most said they voted for candidates because they either knew them or believed they would move the city forward on a range of issues, including crime and drugs, utilities and youth activities.   

Dot Lane, a First Ward voter and lifelong Elizabeth City resident, said the “biggest thing” the next council needs to work on is fighting drugs. She sees the problem every day, she explained after voting at River Road Middle School.

To handle that problem, Lane said she voted for Young for city council, explaining she knew Young well but not the other four candidates who ran. Lane said she knew and supported Young after helping her with the popular “Fright Nights” event hosted by the Fraternal Order of Police and the Police Athletic League.

Another First Ward voter, Beverly Powell, said she chose Colbert for council, though she also said she wasn't very familiar with the candidates.

Whomever the voters elected, Powell said she wanted the next council to focus on lowering utility costs. Though electrical rates have gone down since a debt-purchasing deal with Duke Energy Progress, she just hasn't seen much savings in her bills, she said.

One First Ward voter, who asked not to be named, said she planned to vote for Caudle and Caruso for council. Both are active in the community, she said, adding Caruso happens to be a neighbor of hers.

Rebecca McKee said she planned to vote for Caudle and was still deciding between Caruso or Young as her second choice. Citing Caudle's work at Arts of The Albemarle, McKee said she hoped he could help grow the city's downtown. It has a lot of potential but greatly needs development, she said.

First Ward voter Alvin Boone, a pastor at Melton Grove Baptist Church in Winfall, said he voted for Redding after meeting her at the polls on Tuesday. He only voted for Redding because it wasn't clear to him he could have voted for two candidates, he said.

Boone said the city greatly needs to attract industry. His children, like other young people, had no reason to stay in Elizabeth City once they completed college, he said.

First Ward voter Zach Commander said he planned to vote for Colbert and Redding. They seemed like nice women with genuine concern for the community, he explained.

Commander also said he hoped the next city council would work well together, explaining "they have to realize they are one" when it comes to serving citizens. He also said he hoped they would improve the city's utility bills.

Over in the Fourth Ward, T'Shawn Gorham also called for the city to tackle its utility billing problems.

“It’s been pretty high,” she said of her own utility costs.

Gorham said she voted for Fourth Ward incumbent Councilors Horton and Walton because she believes them to be nice men. She said she knows Horton because he’s a minister and Walton because he spoke at her church.

Gorham said she’s also concerned about crime in the city. She explained she doesn't see high crime rates as police's fault, but as a result of lack of jobs and lack of hope for some.

Over at the Knobbs Creek Recreation Center, Second Ward voter Shirley Lamb chose incumbent Hummer, the council’s mayor pro tem, and newcomer Adkins to represent her on council.

Regarding the issues that concern her, Lamb said, "I'm interested in the electricity of the city of Elizabeth City."

Second Ward voter Pam Flowers backed Stimatz and Riggs. She said she supported candidates she believed would “get things on the right course.”

Flowers said she always has supported Stimatz, but also opted for Riggs because he "just sounded like he was new and had some great ideas."

Patrick Detwiler said he voted for Stimatz as well.

"I just think he does a great job," Detwiler said, adding that Stimatz works to stay well-informed and make data-driven decisions.

Over at Pasquotank Elementary School, Third Ward voters Leslie and Carolyn Williams said they wrote in Michael Brooks’ name for a city council seat. Brooks is an incumbent councilor who, while not on the ballot, recently agreed to serve again if elected by write-in.

Regarding city issues, Leslie commented “we're always concerned about the utilities,” with Carolyn adding they were also concerned about the city's youth.

A 60-year-old Third Ward voter who declined to give her name Tuesday also voted for Brooks.

"He's got a gift for gab and I went to school with him," she said.

Another anonymous voter who described himself as a 50-year-old dietary manager and military veteran, said he voted for Brooks and King.

The man also said he was concerned about the city's economy.

"I just want to see more jobs, especially for the younger kids to do," he said.

Another Third Ward voter, a 49-year-old woman, said she voted for King. She also said she was most concerned about the city's utility problems, including bills not getting out on time until recently.

"Be consistent for us," she said. "Don't decide when you want to mail us a light bill and then have it fluctuate."

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