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With another Election Day having come and gone, here’s a recap of the voting results in Chatham’s municipal races and other ballot measures from Nov. 5.
The Town of Pittsboro has a new mayor and new town commissioner.
Jim Nass and Kyle Shipp, respectively, join the town’s government as winners last week. Incumbent Commissioners John Bonitz and Jay Farrell re-joined the board, as seven candidates vied for the three seats available. Nass was unopposed.
Shipp told the News + Record he was “incredibly humbled” by being the top vote-getter among commissioner candidates — he earned 623 votes, a little more than 20 percent of the vote total — and ready to get to work.
“I’m going to dive in because that’s all I know how to do,” he said. “I’d like to build upon the work I’m doing on the Planning Board by leaning into and getting up to speed on the responsibilities of the Town Board, such as budget, water treatment, and sewer capacity.”
Nass said on his Facebook page that he was grateful for the work of all the commissioner candidates.
“The Town owes you all a big thank you for putting yourselves out there to work for the benefit of the whole Town,” he wrote. “I look forward to working with the new Board on all of the complex and critical issues facing our wonderful Town.”
Siler City voters decided on two competitive races last week, while Commissioners Larry Cheek (District 2), Bill Haiges (District 4) and Chip Price (at-large) ran unopposed.
Siler City Mayor John Grimes was re-elected to his position as the head of the Siler City Board of Commissioners after facing two challengers — Albert Reddick and Jackie Adams. Grimes says he is “happy to have another opportunity to serve and grateful to all who supported me.” He says he wants to continue to improve the town’s infrastructure — water and wastewater delivery systems and capacity at the plants. He notes the town and its staff are “constantly seeking grant monies” for the improvements while currently managing eight community projects for water and wastewater infrastructure.
He also is working toward airport improvement and expansion as an important goal noting the town was awarded over a quarter of a million dollars in 2019 for improvements to the airport. Grimes is also very focused on improvements to the Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) Site located on U.S. Hwy-64 just west of town. He believes the infrastructure being installed to provide water to the site is a “game-changer” for the project.
Grimes wants to continue to maintain a “strong financial position, address street improvements, engage our community in litter awareness so as to improve our Town’s appearance, and build on past successes in the Town’s various departments.” He believes that this will help for his long-term goals of continuing “to recruit industry, address affordable housing, and manage our considerable portfolio of grant monies.”
Curtis Brown ousted incumbent Mike Constantino and Timothy “Cookie” Brown to be the next District 3 Commissioner on the town’s board. Brown said he was “grateful for the opportunity to try and make Siler City a better place.”
Brown’s priorities revolve around the town’s water and wastewater systems, a department he retired from prior to seeking the role as commissioner.
“It is inevitable that we will experience another drought and the system is not ready,” he said.
He also wants to add an “auxiliary flow to slow down the Water Plant so the filters can be replaced and upgrade some aging equipment” as well as moving forward with the wastewater permit process.
“For Siler City to be a major player in economic development, access to water sources will serve to compete for new businesses with other communities,” Brown said.
He wants his legacy in office to be that he “helped secure ample water and wastewater” as it’s the “life blood of industry and business. He would also like to help the town move forward with replacing or rehabilitating water and sewer lines.
“It’s going to take a long time,” he said. “We are dealing with an 80- to 90-year-old system.”
Both the mayor of Goldston, Tim Cunnup, and the incumbent town council members, Steve Cunnup (Ward 2) and Charles Fields III (Ward 4), ran unopposed again this year. Mayor Cunnup and Commissioner Cunnup have indicated to the News + Record that they are hoping this will be their last term on the board.
“I am hoping that there will be a qualified candidate to take my place at that time,” Tim Cunnup said.
Each of the incumbent representatives on the Goldston-Gulf Sanitary District Board — Ricky Beal, Henry Kitchings and Danny Scott — were unopposed and re-elected.
On Election Day, voters in Siler City chose to approve fewer restrictions on beer and unfortified wine sales in the town limits. Mayor candidate Jackie Adams, owner of Oasis Fresh Market and Deli and the Chairman of Siler City’s Downtown Advisory Committee, worked for about a year with the town staff and then with another grassroots committee and the Downtown Advisory Committee for another four to six months to get the referenda on the ballot. Following the vote, Adams said she believed that the impact to Siler City will be positive and significant.
“I see many of the shops and event venues opening to get permits from ABC to start having wedding and more formal events,” she said. “I have already heard of two microbreweries wanting to invest downtown and set up tasting areas and or craft shops. I also understand a wine shop is a though with a potential investor.”
Adams believes this will bring business and tax income to Siler City as well as more foot traffic downtown.
“This must be addressed responsibly, and we know, some can not be responsible when it comes to consuming beer or wine,” Adams said. “That is why permit owners have to go through education and will have a responsibility to be vigilant in controlling service and what venues and establishments arise and who they serve.”
In-depth voter turnout numbers are not yet available, but this year’s municipal elections brought out a higher percentage of voters than two years ago.
In 2017, with competitive Siler City mayor and Pittsboro commissioner races, 1,524 voters out of the 7,095 registered in the municipalities went to the polls, a rate of 21.5 percent. This year, more than 1,800 people voted, putting voter turnout at 26.2 percent.
Even with one additional candidate on the ballot, the Siler City mayoral race attracted fewer voters this year than two years ago — 754 residents this year, 867 two years ago.
The Chatham County Board of Elections tested voting equipment in the East and West Siler City precincts during the municipal election. The equipment, produced by Hart InterCivic, is a “ballot on demand” system, which means that each individual’s ballot is printed just after they check-in at the polls.
The two Siler City precincts were chosen for several reasons, according to the board of elections. First, as a “ballot on demand” system, the board wanted to choose a precinct which included multiple ballot styles. As Siler City residents vote for the town board of commissioners by district, there were three different ballot styles in each of the precincts. In addition, the competition of two contested races, each with three candidates, increased the potential for an increased turn-out, which would provide a greater opportunity for poll workers to use the equipment.
Throughout the day, poll workers noted that the equipment ran smoothly and did not appear to have any problems. One challenge came at the end of the day — an unfamiliarity with the equipment delayed the printing tape results. The tape also broke down the results by ballot type which was a new format for the workers. The tape was then taken to the board of elections office in Pittsboro, where the information had to be hand entered into the state’s system, causing another delay in results.
Each election, the state board of elections assigns random results for each county’s board to audit. Since this year also included testing of new equipment, results in both the East and West Siler City precincts were audited as well. According to the Chatham County Board of Elections Executive Director Pandora Paschal, a board member representing each political parties was on site throughout the audit which was completed last Friday. Paschal noted that the results from the hand count matched that of the machine count.
The only other challenge Paschal noted was that some voters had failed to completely fill in the squares on the ballot for their choices, but she said that it would not have affected the result of any race. Prior to the 2020 primary elections, a representative from Hart InterCivic will be working with the Chatham County Board of Elections; if the commissioners choose to invest in that company’s equipment, Hart InterCivic will produce a voter education campaign to teach the public about the new equipment and the voting process.