New Hanover County will have two new members of the board of commissioners come December, as Republicans Woody White and Beth Dawson earned the most votes cast in Tuesday’s six-way race for three seats.
Chairman Jonathan Barfield, the sole incumbent in Tuesday’s election and the only Democrat on the commission, edged out Republican Derrick Hickey by a margin of less than one percent, leaving the door open for Hickey to seek a recount. A message left for Hickey was not immediately returned Wednesday.
White and Dawson will join Barfield and mid-term commissioner Brian Berger, while fellow mid-termer Rick Catlin will vacate his seat as a result of his win to represent District 20 in the North Carolina House of Representatives.
That vacancy is to be filled after White, Dawson and Barfield are sworn to their respective four-year terms and commissioner Jason Thompson, who lost in this year’s primary, steps down from the board.
The four-member board could appoint anyone, so long as they reside in New Hanover County. Thompson could very well receive consideration, as could recent appointment nominee Melissa Gott, whose residency was challenged when the county Republican Party nominated her for a currently vacant seat on the board.
Gott declined to contest the challenge and was removed from the county’s voter rolls. She has since re-registered with the county, listing the same Wilmington address that prompted the challenge of whether the home was her primary residence. Gott has maintained that it is, as opposed to a second home that she and her husband maintain in northern Brunswick County.
On election night, Barfield monitored results on a big-screen display at the crowded New Hanover County Government Center. After acknowledging his win, he said he was thankful the county’s voters placed their trust in him for another four years on the commission. He was first elected in 2008.
Asked his priorities for the term ahead, Barfield said the board needs to finalize its solution to the county’s solid-waste issues—chiefly related to the near-capacity landfill and the initiative to reactivate the county’s old waste incinerator to burn off a large portion of the waste stream.
He said he did not anticipate that being solved at the commission’s Nov. 13 meeting—the last to feature the board’s current lineup.
Of 280,722 votes cast, Barfield received 48,369, or 17.23 percent—less than one percent more than Hickey, who was the next-highest vote-getter with 47,202, or 16.81 percent of the total. Democratic candidates Rob Zapple and Robert Murray received 43,434 and 38,091 votes respectively, or 15.47 and 13.57 percent.
White led the field with 52,355, or 18.65 percent of the vote. Dawson received the second-most votes with 51,271—18.26 percent of total votes cast.
On his campaign website, White thanks supporters via a video statement. “I’m very humbled to have your support,” he said, “and to have been chosen among two other very well qualified candidates to help lead this county.
“The election’s come and gone. Now we have to face and confront the challenges that we know still exist,” White said. “Despite all the hoopla over the election, you know, there were no jobs created last night, no one’s taxes were lowered, and our debt hasn’t gone down at all.”
White goes on to say the county is facing challenges that include solid waste, industry recruitment and retention, and county spending.
“I campaigned hard on these issues,” he said. “I’m prepared to confront them, and I look forward to making bold and tough decisions.”
Attempts to reach Dawson through phone numbers listed on her website and with the board of elections were unsuccessful Wednesday. The day before Election Day, which happened to be her birthday, Dawson likewise thanked her supporters via her Facebook page.
“Thank you all for your vote of confidence and support for my County Commissioner Campaign!” Dawson wrote Monday. “I am very glad we can report that we have run a very positive, grassroots campaign, I have reached out to everyone across our county and have really enjoyed meeting so many wonderful folks!
“Help me celebrate my birthday tomorrow—yes—tomorrow on election day, with a victory for NHCo Commissioner!” she wrote. “It will be an honor to serve you!”
Reach reporter Jonathan Spiers at (910) 772-6313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.