Watauga sees 9 percent voter turnout
Tuesday’s municipal elections saw a 9.03 voter turnout, with incumbents generally winning their respective races.
In early voting, 424 one-stop votes and 17 absentee ballots were cast, the lowest number ever to Watauga County Board of Elections director Jane Hodges’ recollection, though municipal elections are only open to residents of those municipalities.
Hodges had hoped numbers would improve on Election Day, but that wasn’t the case in all precincts.
“It’s been really low,” she said, “the lowest that I have ever experienced, except in Beech Mountain, Seven Devils and Blowing Rock. They have all had, it seems, a big turnout.”
That could be due to the fact that three people are running for three seats on the Boone Town Council.
Tuesday marked the last election before the Voter Identification Law comes into play. Hodges does not anticipate that the law, which will require voters to present identification at the polls, will add a lot to her workload. “I think most people will be prepared with ID,” Hodges said.
Unofficial results indicated no surprises Tuesday with incumbents Andy Ball (456 votes) and Lynne Mason (406 votes) retaining four-year terms on the Boone Town Council. Newcomer Allan Scherlen (388 votes) gained the fewest number of votes among the three and will serve a two-year term.
Ball and Mason said they were pleased with the opportunity to continue work they had begun.
“(I’m) looking forward to more big picture ideas related to the environment, sustainable planning and smart growth strategies in town,” Ball said. “I think there was a good showing of support from ASU and the neighborhoods.”
Mason was similarly pleased with Tuesday’s results.
“It’s been both an honor and a privilege to serve our community, and I’m honored to be re-elected,” she said. “I’m just looking forward to continuing. ... I’m excited about moving forward on a variety of projects. We will be working hard.”
Scherlen, separated from Mason by only 18 votes on his first foray into council politics, is also looking forward to hard work.
“I think that’s an endorsement of my ideas and my willingness to work with everyone on the council and with all the various groups in town,” he said, “and I look forward to the next two years and working with the council and moving forward toward success in Boone.”
In what many some felt would be a tight race for Blowing Rock’s mayoral position, incumbent J.B. Lawrence defeated commissioner Tommy Klutz by more than a 2 to 1 margin.
With 554 votes cast in this year’s Blowing Rock municipal elections, 375 (including 58 absentee) votes were cast for Lawrence versus 176 (35 absentee) for Klutz.
Klutz still has two years left on his current board of commissioners term.
“I think the voters spoke for me today, and I really appreciate their confidence in the job I’ve been doing,” Lawrence said.
In the race for Blowing Rock Board of Commissioners, four candidates, including two incumbents, were running for two four-year seats on the board.
Incumbent Albert Yount was the leading vote-getter with 365 votes (64 absentee). Newcomer Dan Phillips was the second leading vote getter with 258 votes (36 absentee). Candidates failing to win seats in Tuesday’s election were newcomer Regina Pelsemaeker with 172 votes (30 absentee) and incumbent Phillip Pickett with 155 votes (30 absentee).
“I had more people working for me than I think I know,” Yount said. “This one’s for Martha.”
Yount’s wife, Martha, died March 2.
According to Blowing Rock official Johnny Lentz, of the 554 votes tabulated, 129 included “under votes” or ballots where the voter voted for only one candidate for town council, when they could have voted for two. Many voters believe that the chances of their first choice getting elected are diluted by also voting for their second choice.
In Seven Devils, candidates Larry Fontaine, Kathryn Copley and Brad Lambert won terms on the town council. Incumbent Richard DeMott was not re-elected, losing by a margin of 10 votes to Copley and Lambert, according to unofficial results.
Fontaine joins Copley, a retired psychotherapist and current mayor pro tem who has served on the council since 2002.
Lambert, the newcomer to the board, retired after 30 years in the U.S. Navy and also served five years as Seven Devils town manager. He and his wife currently own the Quizno’s in Banner Elk.
In Beech Mountain, incumbents swept the board. Mayor Rick Owen, council member Alan Holcombe and council member Rick Miller will again lead the town. Owen garnered the most votes with 124, followed by Holcombe with 114 and Miller with 85, according to unofficial results.