Walthourville City Council already is getting two new members. Now, the city also will have a new mayor.
Sarah B. Hayes, who gave up her council seat to run for mayor, beat incumbent Larry Baker 213-175 in a runoff for the position. Hayes and Baker were the top two vote-getters in November’s general election, but neither secured a majority, leading to Tuesday’s runoff.
Hayes edged Baker 8278 in early voting, and she took 123 of the 210 votes cast on election day. In all, Hayes, who was second in the general election, received 54.9% of the votes.
“This means the city of Walthourville can rest a little easy because the citizens know they will have someone in there fighting for them,” Hayes said, “who’s transparent, who’s honest and who has the best interests of the citizens at hand. “This is not something for me. I did this strictly for the citizens and for Walthourville to be a better place than it is right now. We have a long way to go, but together, with the citizens and the council we have we can do this. We will do this.”
Baker finished with the most votes in the general election, getting 200 of the 510 votes cast. Hayes, who is mayor pro tem on the council, received 130 votes.
Hayes said she went back to the same doors she knocked on before and expressed to the residents why it was important for them to vote again.
“I reminded them this is not over yet. I also reminded them I need your help,” she said.
Meanwhile, the city faces a deficit of several hundred thousand dollars in its budget and there is the potential of a property tax being levied to make up the difference. When residents talked to Hayes about the potential property tax, she said they asked how did the city get to where a millage rate was a consideration.
“When Mayor (Daisy) Pray left, we had a surplus,” Hayes said. “When your bills outweigh your resources, you have a problem, and that’s what happened.”
Hayes also pledged to broaden public input into the council’s actions.
“We’re going to do things right and we’re going to do things where we are transparent and have the citizens know every step of what we’re doing and be involved in it,” she said. “The whole agenda is going to change. Citizen input is going back on there. If you don’t know what the citizens want and don’t want, you’re working in the dark. I want to bring back a city of ethics, a city of citizen involvement and a city of transparency.”
While the council returns Bridgette Kelly and Luciria Lovette, there also will be two new members — Patrick Underwood and Robert Dodd. Hayes said she hopes there are no hard feelings between her and Mayor Baker.
“We love our city and we need to work together to make it a better place,” she said.