W-AlachuaElection_2012_DSC_0250_copyAlachua commission candidate Shirley Green Brown reacts to news that she won the April 10 election.

ALACHUA – While besting her opponents by a 2-1 margin, it was still a razor thin victory for Shirley Green Brown as she narrowly avoided a run-off election with 50.1 percent of the votes cast in the April 10 City of Alachua commission election.

With a total 473 votes cast, Brown garnered 237 ballots while Patricia Lee picked up 108 and Billy Rogers 108.

The three candidates squared off in hopes of winning a commission seat currently held by Orien Hills, who did not seek re-election to a sixth term.

Just one vote made the difference in an election where the city’s canvassing board overseeing the process had to refer to the City’s election laws for clarification.  With a three-way race, splitting the vote meant that it was possible no candidate would win a majority of the total votes.

In referring to the city’s election laws, the board found that the language stated the winning candidate must have not only more votes than their opponents, but also more than 50 percent of the total votes cast.

After polls closed at 7 p.m., Brown had a lead of 226 votes to Lee’s and Rogers’ 104 and 106 votes respectively.  That was a 51.835 percent lead for Brown.  When 35 absentee ballots were tallied, however, Lee picked up 24 more votes, Brown, 9 votes and Rogers, 2 votes.  Two provisionally cast ballots were verified and added into the tally, giving Brown the two votes she needed to move above the 50 percent mark and avoid a runoff.

If Brown garnered just one vote less, she would have been sent into a run-off election with Lee.

After the canvassing board declared the winner, an elated Brown was congratulated by opponents Lee and Rogers.

With 473 ballots cast, only 8.3 percent of the City of Alachua’s 5,732 registered voters participated in the April 10 election.

Bown may have been given an edge with an endorsement by Commissioner Hills, a friend of more than two decades.  “I’m so grateful to him for his endorsement and to my husband, family, friends, campaign team and my heavenly father who gave me this blessing,” she said.

A Speech and Language Pathologist with the School Board of Alachua County for some 31 years, Brown has been a resident of Alachua since the 1970s.  She is a member of numerous community organizations including the Alachua Woman’s Club, St. Luke A.M.E Church and Friends of the Alachua Branch Library.

Brown credited much of her support from people who have seen and known her over the years from schools to community events and ball games.  “I love people and I love serving others,” she said.

She plans on retiring from the school board in June, leaving more time for her new role as a commissioner.  “This is just another job for me to do,” she said, adding, “I plan to be a new voice for the people of Alachua and I will do my best for everyone and represent the city well.”

Brown’s son, Marlon Brown, 37, said in a telephone interview that he was proud of his mother adding, “It’s a wonderful day in the city of Alachua.”

As for his mother’s new role as a commissioner, Marlon Brown said Shirley Brown would “bring to the commission good spirits and the motivation to help Alachua.”

About the campaign season, Shirley Brown said she believed it to be a clean one, adding, “Everyone was respectful of each other and exhibited a lot of integrity.”

Candidate Patricia Lee agreed with Brown that the campaigns were clean, but did not believe the election received enough media attention.

“I would like to see the strong hold of the people who help people get elected in Alachua broken,” said Lee.

Now an executive director with a Leesburg, Fla. area Community Development Corporation, Lee was once an employee of the City of Alachua.  She unsuccessfully ran for commission in 2008.  She also added that although she believes any one of the three candidates would make good commissioners there are certain issues she would have brought to the commission.

“A higher level of integrity and transparency needs to be reached,” Lee said of the city.

Commissioner Orien Hills will serve until the beginning of the April 23 commission meeting when Brown will take her oath of office and assume Hills’ seat on the dais.

Commissioner Gary Hardacre ran unopposed for his seat on the commission and was automatically re-elected as a result.  Commissioners are elected to three-year terms in the city of Alachua.