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With only 12.60% of registered voters participating in Tuesday’s City of Henderson municipal election, incumbent mayor Eddie Ellington defeated challenger Sharon Owens by a vote of 652 to 568 to retain his position for an additional four-year term.
Owens carried the north, south and east precincts of Henderson, while Ellington won re-election behind a large margin of victory in west Henderson.
In the only other contested race of the election, Jason Spriggs defeated incumbent George Daye for City of Henderson Alderman At-Large 4th Ward by a count of 637 to 509.
“The citizens have spoken and they have affirmed our course,” said Ellington. “In the last four years we’ve made much progress; however, the journey is not done yet. We enter into a time of great challenge but unlimited possibilities. We’ve got to finish the work we started.”
One of the most important tasks to focus on in the fourth quarter of this year, according to Ellington, is finding the right person for the Henderson City Manager’s position.
Current manager Frank Frazier, who has been with the City for 35 years, is set to retire at the end of January 2020.
Ellington said a firm has been hired to complete the vetting of applicants, and he is looking forward to further discussion in a private council meeting to be held prior to the public Henderson City Council meeting on Monday evening.
While acknowledging that Henderson has many issues that still need addressing, Ellington said he firmly believes much progress has been made in his first term as mayor and encourages all citizens to get involved.
“Go to City Council meetings, read the paper, listen to WIZS and get involved in order to gain perspective on what is being done to address the issues,” Ellington said.
“It wasn’t an easy race that I gave the mayor and I believe it gave him something to think about,” laughed Owens in a phone call to WIZS. “If I can get that close, the next person will probably win it.”
While her campaign didn’t result in a victory, Owens said she was proud of her staff and the people who worked hard and supported her.
“While I may not have had all the votes, they have not heard or seen the last of me,” Owens stated.
Owens said that while she wishes nothing but the best for Ellington and believes he’ll “continue to work for our city and make it better,” she also “will not be pleased until there is a turnaround.”
With retirement from her position as a budget analyst with Durham Public Schools on the horizon, Owens said she plans to “take advantage of every opportunity I can to do some work for the city.”
“I’m not satisfied with the work they [City Council] are doing,” explained Owens. “Retiring will give me the time to go out there and solicit people to replace some of the people sitting in those seats that I’m not pleased with.”
Owens said she is excited that Spriggs was elected to the City Council and looks forward to seeing what he brings to the table. “I’m grateful that Jason is getting an opportunity and has new, fresh ideas for the City Council, so I’m just as thrilled as if I had won.”
Celebrating the victory with his campaign team, family and supporters, Spriggs said last night’s win “was the catalyst that can put plans into motion.”
In previous interviews with WIZS, Spriggs has discussed his belief that economic development in Henderson needs to extend beyond Dabney Drive and the downtown area.
“We need economic growth throughout Henderson, but especially east and north to equal what’s happening on Dabney Drive.”
Part of the lack of economic growth in those areas, according to Spriggs, is an image problem.
“I’m going to be real honest and frank, for the last week or so, I’ve spent most of my time on the east side around the Flint Hill area,” said Spriggs. “I’m a bit discouraged because if you were a visitor and came into that area, you would think it was a slum. It’s not a slum because people there are acting like it’s a slum, it’s a slum because of the way it looks. I personally believe as a city we can do something practical, logical and effective to change the way it looks.”
Spriggs also addressed the low voter turnout to the election by saying, “The turnout was low and it hurt. In the next four years, that turnout should be at least triple that. I think that’s a goal we need to reach for.”
Daye could not be reached for comment but previously said on WIZS “TownTalk” that he hoped Spriggs would win and looked forward to seeing some younger blood on the council.
Other, uncontested positions in the municipal election include:
Alderman At-Large 3rd Ward – Melissa Elliott
Alderman 1st Ward – Marion Brodie Williams
Alderman 2nd Ward – Mike Rainey
To hear the Town Talk interview in its entirety, please click the play button below. Listen live to WIZS’ Town Talk Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on 1450AM, 100.1 FM or online at www.wizs.com.