By Tim Gardner
The 2017 Avery County Municipal elections were held last Tuesday, November 8. Six townships in the county held mayoral or town council elections, or both. Several races were uncontested and others had only the same number of seats open as candidates, which automatically gave them wins once they received more votes than any write-in candidates.
Turnout was low as only 18.46 percent (399 ballots cast out of 2,161 registered voters) voted in the municipal elections.
Official results won’t be released until canvassing, when the provisional ballots are counted. The canvass is scheduled for Friday, November 17 by county election officials. Based on margins of victory, it’s unlikely any of the unofficial results will reverse the election winners.
But an interesting happening occurred in the Crossnore aldermen’s race, which had three seats open. Incumbents Jesse Smith and Dan Vance got 31 and 20 votes, respectively. However, there were 34 write-in votes cast. Under state election laws, the person receiving the highest number of write-in votes in the election canvass would be declared the winner. And if that person chose to serve as an alderman, and if he or she received more votes than Smith or Vance, it would change the order of finish and how many years those individuals would fill the seats.
The top two in votes received fill four-year terms, while the third highest vote-getter gets a two-year term.
According to Avery Elections officials, the Crossnore Aldermen’s race was the only one in which write-in votes actually could change how an open seat will be filled and by whom.
Jane Milanovich received 18 of those write-in votes for Crossnore alderman. She can choose to accept or decline the third open seat. If Milanovich declines the seat, state election rules gives the town’s Board of Aldermen authority to appoint a person of its members choosing to fill the vacant seat.
Billy Howard was the next highest in write-in votes received for Crossnore alderman with 8.
The most hotly-contested race was for Newland Aldermen. Voters there elected three new aldermen, while unseating two incumbents. In that election, Jamey Johnson, Avery County Communications Supervisor, was the high vote-getter (107). Lauren Jaynes Turbyfill, daughter of Newland Mayor Valerie Calloway Jaynes, was next in votes received (88). Former Newland Town Administrator /Finance Officer Joleta Wise followed with the third-highest number of votes received (87). Incumbents David Paul (Dave) Calvert (42) and Roxanna Roberson (33) finished fourth and fifth in votes received. The two other candidates, Erica McKinney and Greg Seiz, received 16 and 14 votes respectively. McKinney had withdrawn from the race, but not until after the deadline passed for her name to be removed from the ballot.
But had McKinney received one of the three-highest vote totals, she could have chosen to serve as an alderman under state election guidelines.
Johnson and Turbyfill will hold four-year terms on the Board of Aldermen, while Wise’s seat will be for two years.
Wise was dismissed as the town’s Administrator/Financial Officer in 2016 by the then-Board of Aldermen. Wise later reached a financial settlement with the town, but was not rehired to her former post.
Following Donetta McKinney’s resignation from the Newland Board of Aldermen in October, the Board voted to appoint Seiz to fill the remainder of McKinney’s two-year term (until 2019’s election) by a 3-0-1 (for-against-abstained) vote. Seiz’s appointment gave him an automatic win as he had previously filed as a candidate for one of three other seats open on the Board. Voting in favor of Seiz’s appointment were Calvert, Roberson and alderman Kenny Caraway. Alderman Thomas Jackson abstained.
Since Seiz was not one of the top three in votes received in the election, he will fill the remainder of Donetta McKinney’s two-year term. Had Seiz been one of the top two in votes received, he could have chosen to fill a four-year term or remain in his current two-year term. When Seiz was appointed as an alderman, it also was too late for him to pull out of the race according to state election rules.
Mayor Jaynes received 97 votes in her uncontested race. There were 18 write-in votes for Newland mayor.
All five incumbents were re-elected as Elk Park Aldermen. Joel Whitley led the way with 61 votes. Tony Eller received 57, Tommy Norman 56, Daniel Boone 53 and Michael E. Smith 51. Challenger Brad Benfield got 39 votes.
There were 25 write-in votes for the five open Elk Park aldermen’s seats.
John Boone was unopposed in his re-election bid as Elk Park’s mayor. He received 56 votes. There were 40 write-in votes for Elk Park mayor.
Also, state election laws dictate that had a candidate ran for one office, won it, and received enough write-in votes to win another office, he or she could choose which office to hold. Seiz received two write-in votes for Newland mayor, while Whitley received 34 for Elk Park mayor.
In the Crossonore mayor’s race, incumbent Tudor Vance ran uncontested. He received 39 votes. There was one write-in vote for Crossnore mayor.
There were five write-in votes for the Village of Sugar Mountain’s two open town council seats. Incumbents David P. Ammann (24 votes) and Scott Brown (21votes) were re-elected.
All unofficial results for the 2017 Avery County Municipal Elections include:
(I) = Incumbent
Town Council (2 seats open):
Michael P. Dunn (I): 28
Robert Edgar Tufts (I): 25
Tudor Vance (I): 39
Board of Alderman (3 seats open):
Jesse Smith (I): 30
Dan Vance (I): 21
Write-Ins (miscellaneous): 34 to be tallied during canvass; Jane Milanovich received 18 of those votes. Milanovich can accept or decline the third seat.
John Boone (I): 56
Town Council (5 seats open):
Joel Whitley (I): 61
Tony Eller (I): 57
Tommy Norman (I): 56
Daniel Boone (I): 53
Michael E. Smith (I): 51
Brad Benfield: 39
VILLAGE OF GRANDFATHER-
Bob Donovan (I): 12
Village Council (2 seats open):
David G. Jones (I): 12
Andre Tennille (I): 12
Valerie Calloway Jaynes (I): 97
Town Council (3 seats open):
James (Jamey) Johnson: 109
Lauren Jaynes Turbyfill: 88
Joleta Wise: 87
David Paul Calvert (I): 42
Roxanna Roberson (I): 33
Erica McKinney: 16
Greg Seiz: 14
VILLAGE OF SUGAR MOUNTAIN-
Village Council (2 seats open):
David P. Ammann (I): 24
Scott Brown (I): 21