The two incumbents running for re-election to Wilmington City Council were the top vote getters in municipal elections Tuesday night.
Current Mayor Pro-tem Margaret Haynes and Councilmember Neil Anderson retained their seats on the city’s six-member council. Haynes had the most overall votes with 4,081 (22.33 percent of the total vote). Anderson was second, garnering 3,076 (16.83%).
“I had a good team. We put our irons in the fire and tried to be very strategic in how we spent our money,” Haynes said of her campaign. “It’s a relief. I’m just glad it’s over. It’s been a long haul.”
The race for the third open seat on council, vacated by Laura Padgett, who chose not to run for re-election after serving five terms, came down to less than 100 votes. Paul Lawler, who has a background in finance and has served on the Downtown Parking Advisory Committee, narrowly defeated Realtor Deb Hays, who has served on several city committees, including the Wilmington Housing Authority, by a vote count of 2,960 to 2,872.
Anderson said the race was an example of how a small number of votes could change an election, especially in municipal elections when voter turnout is typically low.
“When you have this kind of weather, you worry, ‘What voters are not going to make it to the polls? Are they mine?'” said Anderson, who said he spent less time at the polls this election day than he usually does due to the rain and more time sending text and social media reminders to people to get out and vote.
With a fresh face joining a council that has remained the same for four years, both Haynes and Anderson said they would do what they could to help the newest member settle in as quickly as possible so the city could continue to move forward.
“It takes a while for that person to get used to colleagues’ personalities, the rhythm and the procedure and the decorum and all those things, so I’ll certainly try to lend a hand,” Anderson said. “You want to get people up and running and comfortable as fast as possible.”
“Change is good. Laura has served admirably for a very long time, and everybody brings something different to the council, so it’ll be interesting to see how it works,” Haynes said. “I really think teamwork is important.”
Mayor Bill Saffo, who was also up for re-election, ran unopposed. He won 5,700 votes.