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Election 2015 Brings New Faces to Old Places

On Tuesday, people across eastern North Carolina headed to the polls to cast their ballot in the municipal elections... and results are in.  Chris Thomas reports on how cities and towns across the region may be getting ready to see new faces in old places.

Now, a quick word of warning – the 2015 municipal elections aren’t over in North Carolina. Until the end of the Nov. 10 County canvasses – a final tally of all submitted ballots – none of the results are official.

But barring major voting improprieties, the book on this year’s election is, for all intents and purposes, closed. Written in it are the end of some careers in public office – at least for now. While many incumbents around the region sailed into wide margin victories, some now have a definite timeline for the end of a chapter in their lives.

In Greenville, Marion Blackburn, a three-term city council member from District 3, lost her bid for a fourth term to McLean Godley, a recent East Carolina University Graduate.

Rick Croskery, a physician and District 5 representative on the council, also lost his bid for reelection to P.J. Connelly, a real estate broker.

On the other hand, Allen Thomas, Mayor of Greenville waltzed back into mayor’s office, winning by nearly 12 and a half percent.

Thomas and the new city council also received marching orders from voters in Greenville. A $15.85 Million bond referendum for road and transportation projects, including additional funding for the 10th Street Connector, linking the town’s medical district with East Carolina University was approved by an overwhelming 40.98 percent margin.

According to ECU professor and returning City Council Member At-Large, Calvin Mercer, voters sent a clear message through their ballots, despite controversy over part of the bond - $750,000 – going toward expansion of the pedestrian-oriented Greenville Greenway, which is expected to be an east-west connector across the city.

“Unfortunately the five percent of the bond that was devoted to the Greenways got inordinate amount of attention, however, the fact that that got so much attention and the fact that the bond passed so overwhelmingly, I think, sends a message that the people of Greenville do want a broad vision of growth for their city, they are interested in growth that includes quality of life and adequate transportation of all sorts”

A range of issues from crime to the, still, vacant Grainger Stadium were discussed during the city council election season in Kinston, which included a few upsets of their own, including Gordon Vermillion, a retired business man and former city council member. He said he was at the Lenoir County Board of Elections when the news came he’d reclaimed a seat on the council, edging out incumbent Kelly Jarman by about 361 votes.

While council newcomer Felicia Solomon’s victory didn’t come as a surprise to Kinston Free Press City and County Government reporter, Jennifer Cannon – Solomon got the lion’s share of the 8,876 votes cast – the other two seats were up for grabs.

“We had two incumbents, Sammy C. Akien and Kelly Jarman, so it was anticipated that… one or both of them could take the second or third seat, but we also had Gordon Vermillion, who was a previous city council member, and a Kinston business leader, as well as Tharol Branch, who has been a Kinston business man and very popular with the people and following up behind him is Steve Ragan, Michael Davis, Lenny Peterson, they all had support from different areas, so the second and third seats were a little bit up in the air”

Vermillion said he’s excited about his second round as a city councilman his number one priority for the next four years is ensuring Kinston rekindles a spirit of inclusiveness and community participation in civic matters – something he says he remembers fondly from his previous stint on the council in the 1990s and 2000s.  

“Back when I was on the council, we did a lot of community outreach, we went and reached out to the community, and let them know what we were doing in terms of crime prevention and rather than tell them after the fact we actually brought them in and that did a lot to give them the encouragement to come forward and say ‘hey, we’ve got a problem over here.’”

Some other races of note in the region and the state.

  • In North Topsail Beach in Onslow County, where beach nourishment has been a prominent topic of discussion, Mayor Daniel Tuman was unseated by challenger Fred Burns.
  • The Town of Williamston in Martin County, will also have a new mayor. Joyce Whichard-Brown beat incumbent Tommy Roberson.
  • In Havelock in Craven County, all the incumbent candidates on the ballot were victorious.

The Kinston Free Press, The Daily Reflector of Greenville and The Daily News of Jacksonville contributed to this report.
If you want to find out more about election results in Eastern North Carolina and throughout the state, visit the State Board of Election’s website at ncsbe.gov.