It was seasonably hot the first week of August 2006, but the winds of change were blowing in Macon County government last week.
In the most non-partisan election in memory, Macon County voters turned out two incumbent county-wide office holders, and elected one Democrat, two Independents and one Republican as new county Mayor, Sheriff, Circuit Court Clerk and county Trustee.
The county's top office, that of county mayor, went to former banker Shelvy Linville (D), who defeated Steve Jones (R) by a total vote of 3,201 to 2152. Jones is expected to remain director of the county's EMS (ambulance service). Independent candidate for county mayor Arlis Hewitt garnered only 201 votes.
Twenty-year incumbent Sheriff Joe Ferguson (R) lost his job to Independent candidate Mark Gammons by a vote of 3,002 to 2,499, with Independent Steve Evans a distant third with 133 votes. Gammons currently serves as Commander with the Westmoreland Police Department.
Another incumbent fell as Circuit Court Clerk Jennifer Hudson (R) lost to Independent challenger Rick Gann by a vote of 3,245 to 2,157. Gann is a popular local electrician and heating and cooling contractor doing business in Macon and surrounding counties before his election to the clerk's office last Thursday.
In the race for county Trustee, popular political newcomer Diane Cook (R) handily defeated Democratic challenger Jerry Hargrove by a lopsided vote of 3,805 to 1,481 votes.
Two School Board Seats will have new occupants: Challenger Billy Wilmore defeated incumbent Wayne Marsh by 585 votes to 555 for school board member representing districts 5,8,9,&10; while incumbent Gene Carter lost his seat to Jimmy Cook,... with Cook garnering 580 votes, Danny Knight receiving 351 and Gene Carter placing third in the voting with 261 votes. Cook will represent districts 6,7,12,&19 on the school board.
SEVEN OF TWENTY COUNTY COMMISSION seats were contested this year, with 2nd District Commissioner David Crowder defeating challenger David Brewington, 111-67; 4th District Commissioner Jeff Hughes won re-election over challenger Sheryle Guinn, 164-72; 6th District Commissioner Phillip Snow defeated challenger Ray Bilbrey, 142-114; 7th District Commissioner Jerry Ray narrowly kept his seat despite a strong challenge from Jason Bohanan, winning by 172-165, with Neida Dallas receiving 46 votes; 15th District Commissioner Melburn Cothron won re-election over challenger Richard Bransford, 150-63; 18th District Commissioner Willie Andrews lost to challenger Robert “Grant” Malo, 123-77; 19th District Commissioner Lindbergh Dennis retained his seat defeating challenger Carolyn Whitaker, 137-118; and newcomer Rosetta Day “Tinker” Driver defeated 20th District Commissioner Floyd Ray Sullivan, 68-62 votes.
OTHER COUNTY COMMISSIONERS elected running unopposed in their districts received the following complementary vote totals: District 1 Commissioner Billy Bransford-211 votes; District 3 Commissioner Vernon Biggs-100 votes; District 5 Commissioner Billy West-159 votes; District 8 Commissioner Scott Gammons-261 votes; District 9 Commissioner Larry Tucker-232 votes; District 10 Commissioner Mike East-232 votes; District 11 Commissioner Ralph Doss-111 votes; District 12 Commissioner Tony Boles-184 votes; District 13 Commissioner-elect Annette Looper-229 votes; District 12 Commissioner Anna Dean Carter-167 votes; District 16 Commissioner Helen Hesson-297 votes; District 17 Commissioner Phillip Spears-215 votes.
Billy West, representing the 5th District, replaces the retiring commissioner, Merlin Driver, and Annette Looper, representing the 13th District, replaces retiring commissioner Patrick Rich. They join Robert “Grant” Malo, who defeated Willie Andrews in the 18th District, and Rosetta Day “Tinker” Driver, who narrowly defeated Floyd Ray Sullivan in the 20th District, to make a total of four new faces who will join the other commissioners at the first meeing of the body in September.
COUNTY-WIDE OFFICIALS running unopposed for re-election received the following number of compelmentary votes: General Sessions Judge Ken Witcher-3,604 votes; County Court Clerk James R. Howser-4,578 votes; and Register of Deeds Melinda K. Ferguson-4,144 votes.
ELECTED CONSTABLES RAN UNOPPOSED with the exception of Sammy Morgan (representing districts 6,7,12, and 19) who defeated challenger Loyd “Bubba” Hix by a vote of 576-to-339. Constable Rick Noble (Dist. 1,2,11,&20) received 491 complementary votes; Constable Barry Newberry (Dist. 3,4,15&16) received 662 votes; Constable Charles T. (Tom) Dallas (Dist. 5,8,9,&10) received 638 votes; and no candidate filed for constable for districts 13,14,17&18.
WHILE THE CIRCUIT COURT (Division I) AND CRIMINAL COURT races will be decided by the total of votes in several counties, incumbent Judge Clara Byrd easily topped challenger Jim Stallings in Macon County by a vote of 2,681-996. Criminal Court incumbent Judge J.O. Bond topped challenger Bobby Hibbitt here by a vote 2,323-1,761. Judge Bond lost to Hibbitt in Wilson County, 9,367-to-7,763, but picked up enough votes in Macon, Smith, Jackson and Trousdale counties to narrowly defeat his challenger.
15th District, Division II Circuit Court Judge John D. Wootten Jr. received 3,581 complementary votes, running unopposed for re-election; similarly, Chancellor C.K. Smith received 2,799 complimentary votes running unopposed; District Attorney General Tom P. Thompson, the longest serving attorney general in the state, received 3,330 complimentary votes in Macon County; and 15th District Public Defender Comer Donnell received 2,083 complimentary votes.
VOTER TURNOUT in Macon County was a healthy 45.95 percent of registered voters, with 3,305 “early voters”; 483 voting absentee; and 1,966 casting votes on the official August 3 election day, for a total vote of 5,754.