Archer's Jones and Zander win

W_-_Williams_Election_DSC_0022_copyA victorious Byran Williams is congratulated Tuesday evening after winning the hotly contested Commission Seat 4 race against challenger Pat Rush.

HIGH SPRINGS – In the race for High Springs City Commission Seat 4, a steady stream of 2,674 High Springs citizens cast ballots in the contest.  In the end, the count was 1,448 ballots for Byran Williams, giving him the win over Pat Rush’s 1,176 votes.  In terms of percentages, it was Williams with 55.2 percent to Rush’s 44.8 percent.

Williams, who previously served as commissioner from 2003 to 2009 and again in 2011, was clearly elated at his re-election and said he was grateful for the support he received from citizens.  “I’m always proud of the people of High Springs,” he said with a broad smile, “but I am especially proud today at the wonderful turnout we have had and that they chose me again to serve them.”  Williams will be assuming the commission seat vacated by outgoing mayor Dean Davis, who chose not to seek re-election.

Challenger Pat Rush declined to comment earlier in the evening and took a “wait and see” approach rather than predict the outcome.  Rush was not available for comment after results were announced and attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

A controversial amendment to the city’s charter, which would limit the ability of the commission to obtain loans in excess of $1 million without a citizen referendum, received 1,794 votes to approve passage versus 880 votes against.

Controversy about the amendment has revolved around allegations of failure to comply with state required public notice laws. Although the original amendment was advertised with a $1 million limit on borrowing authority, the commission initially approved a $2 million limitation during a public hearing.  The issue resurfaced later in the same meeting after the $2 million limitation was approved and the public hearing had closed.  The commission voted again and changed the approved $2 million limit to $1 million. It is alleged that the commission’s revote on the measure was made without the required legal public notice.

High Springs resident Ross Ambrose filed suit seeking emergency injunctive relief to stop the amendment from appearing on the ballot.  Last week Judge Stanley Griffis ruled that the measure should remain on the ballot, but the amendment would not go into effect immediately, if approved.  Meanwhile, the issue is expected to go to trial and will be ruled on at a later date.  A link to the complete 15-page ruling on this issue can be found at www.alachuatoday.com.

Supporters for both candidates, as well as those in support of or against the proposed amendment, created a lively atmosphere along US Highway 441 as they ushered voters into Precinct 20 at the High Springs Civic Center.  While at Precinct 60, located at Fellowship Church of High Springs, also on US Highway 441, most of the supporters created the same upbeat atmosphere.

Supporters and media waiting for election results sought the county election website on their electronic devices to try to get the complete picture as they waited for local precinct numbers.

Although many people were focused on the local election results, some were disappointed they could not also obtain High Springs’ voter choices for the national election as well.

Election Clerk Yvonne Andrews announced the local election numbers after closing the polls and working with her staff, but referred people to the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office or local news media for national election results from the High Springs precincts.

Andrews said that many general election turnouts she’s seen in more than 20 years of clerking were about the size of this election, “but the 2008 election was a little larger than this,” she explained.

Precinct changes caused confusion and some frustration for voters.  Andrews said if a voter’s name was not listed in their books, it caused delays and took time to determine where they should vote.  “We were having to bombard the county to find out just what each person’s status was and where they were supposed to vote,” she said.  “People were very polite and patient during that process, which was nice.”

Because this local election coincides with the national election, the Supervisor of Elections Office in Gainesville must certify the election results prior to declaring any candidate a winner.

In past years, the winning candidate would have been sworn in at the next regular commission meeting after the election.  This year the swearing in and organizational meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m.