There will be contested mayoral and commissioners races in Garland this year, including three vying for the mayor’s seat, with the sitting mayor set to face off against the current mayor pro tem and another commissioner who recently resigned from the board. Newton Grove and Salemburg also have contested races for town board seats.
The filing period for the 2017 Municipal Election ended at noon Friday after several more threw their hats in, including Garland incumbent commissioner S.J. Smith and Newton Grove commissioner challenger William “Chris” Raynor. Those two filings officially made those town board races contested, with four people vying for three available seats in each. Salemburg has five people vying for three commissioners seats.
Town board races in Roseboro, Turkey, Harrells, Clinton and Autryville are not contested. In fact, Autryville will have a vacancy as only one person filed with two board seats available.
Three sitting mayors are also poised to retain their seats with no opposition against them, including Lew Starling in Clinton, Gerald Darden in Newton Grove and the Rev. Larry Autry in Autryville.
All of the municipal board seats have four-year terms, while the mayoral posts in each town have two-year terms.
In the Garland mayoral race, Mayor Winifred Murphy will be going up against Commissioners Haywood Johnson, who serves as mayor pro tem and will see his term on the board expire this year, and Ralph Smith, who recently resigned from the board. The Garland commissioners race includes newcomers Austin Brown, Richard Smith and Eddie Bronson Jr. and incumbent S.J. Smith, with three seats available. Carolyn Melvin is not seeking another term.
During previous meetings, Murphy hinted that her current term would probably be her last, but seemingly had a change of heart.
Ralph Smith resigned from the board at the end of June, choosing not to serve the rest of his term. That unexpired term went to Joseph Lee Carberry, who had filed to seek one of the opening seats but withdrew upon being appointed to the board in Smith’s stead. That term now served by Carberry extends through 2019.
In Newton Grove, there will also be at least one new commissioner as Commissioner Steve Jackson did not file to seek another term. Incumbents Gary Mac Herring and Teresa Wilson are joining challengers Jessica Barefoot and William “Chris” Raynor in the chase for three seats.
In Salemburg, incumbents Richard “Dickie” Walters Jr., Thomas “Tommy” Jackson and Donald R. Comer are seeking to retain their spots on the board, while challengers Arnold Page and Johnnie C. Parker attempt to unseat them. Page and Parker both ran unsuccessfully in a similarly-crowded town race in 2015.
In Clinton, Councilman Darue Bryant, who was appointed in May to fill out the late Maxine Harris’ District 5 term, is seeking election to his first full term and Marcus Becton will extend his already 20-year tenure as District 3’s representative. Challenger Daniel Ruggles appears poised to take the reins in District 1 with Steve Stefanovich not filing for another term.
Unopposed yet again, Starling will earn a ninth mayoral term.
In Harrells, Charles “Ted” Moore and Kim Johnson are poised to continue as aldermen, just as Cyndi Templin and Anthony Bennett are for the Roseboro board and Rudy M. Blackburn and Tony Moore will for Turkey.
In Autryville, Autry is unopposed for mayor and Mickie Spell is poised to keep a commissioner seat. There is another seat that is vacant. If a candidate does not win by write-in votes, the board will have to appoint someone to fill the seat. Any number of write-ins can be elected as long as they are valid write-ins, the candidate is eligible for the seat (lives within the municipality) and the candidate accepts it, according to Board of Elections director Ashley Tew.
Write-ins are allowed for all races, Tew noted.
Along with its contested races for mayor and commissioners, Garland will also have an ABC referendum on the ballot.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.