Election Day winners pledge unity among City Council

Oct. 09, 2013 @ 08:14 PM

Three incumbents prevailed on Election Day and a successful challenger will join them.

Before four more Henderson City Council seats and the mayor’s position go on the ballot in 2015, what should be expected going forward?

The winning foursome was united in answer: unity. Issues awaiting them make it a reasonable choice.

“I hope that it can be a uniform council going forward and agree on the same issues,” said Mike Inscoe, who defeated Arnold Booth Jr.

Inscoe represents Ward 2 as an at-large member. Sara Coffey was re-elected to the Ward 1 at-large seat, defeating Charles Douglas, and Garry Daeke turned back Geraldine Champion for the Ward 3 seat.

In Ward 4, Fearldine Simmons edged incumbent Vernon Brown by seven votes.

The rest of the council includes Jim Kearney Sr. in Ward 1, Mike Rainey in Ward 2, Brenda Peace-Jenkins as Ward 3 at-large and George Daye as Ward 4 at-large.

“Vernon was an excellent council person,” Inscoe said. “And I expect Ms. Simmons to be as well. I look forward to working with her and moving our city in a positive direction.”

In the run-up to the election, through interviews and a forum for candidates, economic development was the most universal campaign topic of the four who eventually prevailed. The city’s crime rate, statistically dropping according to the Uniform Crime Index, and education were also strong talking points.

While the county public schools are under the Vance County commissioners’ umbrella, a horrid four-year graduation rate — worst in the state — and a changing landscape in K-12 education were often linked to the city’s economic woes.

The council, however, has problems under its umbrella. A $700,000 grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation for a recreational, educational, entertainment and family center known as REEF was lost in August. The loss evolved against the backdrop of changing leadership in the Downtown Development Commission, which the council nearly cut from its budget before citizen input appeared to make the save two months earlier.

The extra-territorial jurisdiction, an area of joint oversight by the city and the county, is increasingly burdened by blight. So are other areas of a city without a signature gateway entrance.

Property tax revaluations will arrive during the terms of Tuesday’s winners as well. A substantial impact on the city budget is expected.

Amid those issues, unity will indeed likely be tested.

“Obviously, seven of the eight are previously there and I think we work well as a team,” Daeke said. “When I met Fearldine, she seems like a nice lady and will fit in well and fit in with the part of the larger team and be a productive person.”

Coffey agreed.

“I think we’ve got a really good council as far as all of us getting along and working together,” Coffey said. “I think it’s going to be great. Ms. Simmons is a good person, hard working, and I think she’ll be quite an asset to our council.”

Simmons said she hopes to contribute and benefit from others’ experience.

“I have a sincere desire to do my best to serve my community, especially my Ward 4,” Simmons said. “I think we’ll move very well together. I’m looking forward to working with them. I am the newest of them, and I believe I will learn a lot from them.”

 

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.