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2023 Avery County Municipal Election Results

By Tim Gardner

Thirty-three candidates were on the ballot in Tuesday’s election to fill municipal government seats in Avery County’s eight townships which include:  Newland, Banner Elk, Elk Park, Crossnore, Village of Sugar Mountain, Beech Mountain, Village of Grandfather, and Seven Devils. Mayoral seats were on the ballot in five of those townships and town council, council member or alderman seats were on the ballot in all of them.

Also, a Water System Bonds Referendum was held in the Town of Beech Mountain.

Polls were open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. 

Newland had three town council seats open. Banner Elk had three town council seats and the mayor’s seat open. Crossnore had the mayor and three town council seats available. Elk Park had the most governmental seats available as all five town council seats were open, as well as the mayor’s seat. The Village of Sugar Mountain had two town council seats and the mayor’s seat available. The Village of Grandfather had two council member seats and the mayor’s seat open.  Beech Mountain had four town council seats available–three for regular terms and one to fill an unexpired term. Three town council seats were open in Seven Devils.

Excluding write-in votes, the only contested races were for Newland Town Council, Elk Park Town Council, and Beech Mountain Town Council (regular term seats).  Contested means that more candidates ran for particular offices than seats were open for them.

Some sections of Beech Mountain and Seven Devils are in Avery County and other parts are in Watauga County.  Candidates in those townships were required by the North Carolina State Board of Elections to file in the county in which they reside and their voters had to cast their ballots in the same county.

Incumbent Christian (Christie) Hughes got the most votes for Newland Town Council with 80 to be re-elected.   Also elected were Kenan Foxx with 57 votes and incumbent Gail Haller, who received 56 votes.  Dave Calvert got 35 votes to finish fourth, and Nancy Davis received 30 to finish fifth.

There were also 17 write-in votes for Newland Town Council.

In Elk Park, Incumbent Darlene Hicks received the most votes for Town Council with 48. Brad Benfield was second with 41 votes. Other incumbents and their vote totals were: Tony Eller, 40; Mike Smith, 36; Alice Whittington 33; and Joel Whitley 26.

All but Whitley were elected.

There was also one write-in vote for Elk Park Town Council.

In Beech Mountain, four candidates—all non-incumbents—ran for Town Council.  Their Avery County vote totals were:  M.W. Stanford 18; Art Beckman 13; Allen Villanova 11; Susan Jones 7; and Robert McMichael 5.

There was one write-in vote in Avery County voting in the race.

Villanova finished with the most votes (132) in the race counting the 121 he received from voters in the Watauga County section of Seven Devils. He got one more vote (131) than Beckman, counting the 118 votes  he received from Watauga County voters in the race. Stanford had the third most votes (109) in the two counties combined, as he also got 91 from Watauga voters.

So, Villanova, Beckman, and Stanford won the three regular term seats on the Beech Mountain Town Council.

McMichael got 72 votes in Watauga County to finish with 77 over-all votes, while Jones got 31 in Watauga to finish with 38 over-all votes.

There were four write-in votes in Watauga in the race.

Incumbent Kelly McLang ran unopposed for the unexpired term on the Town Council.  She got 15 votes in Avery voting and 105 in Watauga to finish with 120.

There were 15 write-in votes for the unexpired term seat in Watauga.

There was also one write-in vote in Avery County for the unexpired term on the Beech Mountain Town Council.

The Water System Bonds Referendum in the Town of Beech Mountain  was approved 18 to 3 by Avery voters and 128 to 24 by Watauga voters, to pass by a combined total of 146 to 27.

In the Seven Devils Town Council race, incumbent Wayne L. Bonomo got the most votes in Avery County (19).  Write-Ins Brian Davies and John Wells followed in second and third place with 16 and 13 votes, respectively. Bob Bridges got 11 votes, incumbent Larry Fontaine received 9, and there was one other write-in vote in the race.

In Watauga County, there were 78 write-in votes for Seven Devils Town Council. Bonomo got 19 in Watauga to finish with a combined 76 votes, Fontaine got 66 in Watauga to finish with a combined 75 votes, and Bridges got 59 in Watauga to finish with 70 votes total in the two counties.

Bonomo, Fontaine, and Bridges won the three open seats.

Final Avery County Municipal Elections Voting Totals for all races were as follows:

Town of Banner Elk Mayor-

Brenda Lyerly (Incumbent) 35

Write-In-1

Town of Banner Elk Town Council Member-

Charles Banner VonCanon (Incumbent) 34

David Lecka (Incumbent) 32

Write-In 1

Town of Beech Mountain Town Council-

M.W. Stanford 18

Art Beckman 13

Allen Villanova 11

Susan Jones 7

Robert McMichael 5

Write-In 1

Town of Beech Mountain Town Council (Unexpired)-

Kelly McLang (Incumbent) 15

Write-In 1

Town of Beech Mountain Water System Bonds Referendum

Yes (For) 18

No (Against) 3

Town of Crossnore Mayor-

Eddie Yarber (Incumbent) 19

Write-In 4

Town of Crossnore Alderman-

Jesse C. Smith (Incumbent) 19

Roy Ingram (Incumbent) 17

Terry Smith (Incumbent) 16

Write-In 11

Town of Elk Park Mayor-

Daniel Boone (Incumbent) 55

Write-In 3

Town of Elk Park Council Member-

Darlene Hicks (Incumbent) 48

Brad Benfield 41

Tony Eller (Incumbent) 40

Mike Smith (Incumbent) 36

Alice Whittington (Incumbent) 33

Joel Whitley (Incumbent) 26

Village of Grandfather Village Mayor-

Richard C. Norman (Incumbent)  16

Village of Grandfather Village Council-

Stephen Hawes 15

Charles (Chuck) Fuller (Incumbent) 8

Write-In 5

Town of Newland Council Member-

Christian (Christie) Hughes (Incumbent) 80

Kenan Foxx 57

Gail Haller (Incumbent) 56

David P. Calvert 35

Nancy E. Davis 30

Write-In 17

Town of Seven Devils Town Council-

Wayne L. Bonomo (Incumbent) 19

Brian Davies 16 (Write-In)

John Wells 13 (Write-In)

Bob Bridges 11

Larry Fontaine (Incumbent) 9

Other Write-In 1

Village of Sugar Mountain Mayor-

Gunther Jochl (Incumbent) 26

Write-In 1

Village of Sugar Mountain Council Member-

Dick Casey (Incumbent) 23

Wade Wittman (Incumbent) 23

Write-In 4

The complete Avery County election results can also be found at the following online link:

https://er.ncsbe.gov/?election_dt=11/07/2023&county_id=6&office=ALL&contest=0

According to voting statistics provided by the Avery County Board of Elections, voter turnout was low with only a 15.11 percentage turnout (343 of 2,270).

There were only non-partisan elections and no second or runoff races will be held in municipal election races.  Any opposed candidate who won by just one vote was elected. And if the same or a fewer number of candidates ran for as many seats open in a particular race, they were automatically elected if they received just one vote. Also, a single candidate running for a single open post was also elected if he or she received just one vote. 

Additionally, the Town of Beech Mountain Water System Bonds Referendum was also decided by a majority vote, even if it had been by only one more yes (for) or no (against) vote.

The two-week filing period for the November 6, 2023 municipal elections in North Carolina began at 12:00 noon on July 2 and closed on July 16 at 12:00 noon.  

One stop, early voting began October 19 and ended November 4 in Avery County, and was conducted at the Board of Elections office in Newland. 

All residents of the towns of Newland, Banner Elk, Elk Park, Crossnore, Village of Sugar Mountain, Beech Mountain, Grandfather Village and Seven Devils, who are registered to vote with the Avery County Board of Elections, could vote in this election. 

Beginning with this year’s municipal elections, North Carolina voters were required to show photo Identification (ID) when they voted. To be eligible to vote in a municipal election, a voter had to live in that municipality for at least thirty (30) days (October 8) before General Election Day. The voter registration deadline was twenty-five (25) days (October 13) before General Election Day.  Voter Registration Forms had to be received in the Elections Office or postmarked in United States Mail by the deadline. Each voter was sent a voter card showing his/her assigned voting precinct.

Other eligibility guidelines to vote in North Carolina’s municipal elections, included that a voter must:

*Be a citizen of the United States

*Be a resident of North Carolina and their voting township for at least 30 days prior to an election

*Be at least 18 years of age by the next General Election

*Not be registered to vote in another township 

*If convicted of a felony, have had his or her citizenship rights restored

Tuesday, October 31 at 5:00 p.m. was the Civilian Absentee Ballot request deadline for November municipal elections. And Tuesday, November 7 at 5:00 p.m. was the Civilian Absentee Ballot return deadline. A Civilian Absentee Ballot is for anyone who is not military or overseas using an absentee ballot.