VALDOSTA -- Tuesday night's election appears to have resulted in an upset for two Lowndes County Board of Education incumbents.
According to unofficial numbers, Philip Poole, Fred Davis, and Fred Wetherington will be joining Mike Davis, Bill Herring, Bill Fuqua, and Jamie Jason Wisenbaker on the six-person board.
In the race for the District 6 seat, Philip Poole, a first-time political candidate, emerged with 53.67 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Wendol West, who received 46.33 percent of the vote, with 11 of 12 precincts reporting. Poole received 461 votes, while West received 398 votes.
The numbers are unofficial pending receipt of 63 outstanding military and about 40 provisional ballots, said Deb Cox, Lowndes County Board of Elections supervisor. According to a letter from the Office of Secretary of State, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia issued two orders extending the deadline for accepting these ballots until 5 p.m. Friday.
Cox said it's possible some of the ballots could result in additional votes cast in District 6. If so, this could alter the outcome of the race as it stood Tuesday night.
"It just goes to show that every vote counts," said Poole, 50, manager of engineering and technical at Packaging Corporation of America and Valdosta resident. "I don't know what to think. My only option is to wait for the final and official results Friday afternoon."
If the numbers hold steady, Poole will assume the four-year position in January 2005.
Fred Davis, 57, walked away from the District 7 race with 46.03 percent of the vote, or 435 votes, with 10 of 11 precincts reporting. This is enough to declare him the winner, according to the Official Code of Georgia Section 21-2-501's plurality rule which states that a runoff is avoided in such a nonpartisan race when one candidate receives at least 45 percent of the total vote.
As with the District 6 race, it's possible those outstanding ballots could result in additional votes cast in District 7. Again, these could alter the outcome of this race as it stood Tuesday night.
"I am so excited," said Davis, 57, director of special programs at Valdosta City School System and Valdosta resident. "It's really been a great race. Both of my opponents were good candidates. I just hope things hold strong through Friday afternoon."
Davis defeated Marvin Bruch, 52, systems administrator at South Georgia Medical Center, who received 25.40 percent of the vote or 240 votes and incumbent James Council Jr. who received 28.25 percent of the vote or 267 votes.
If the numbers hold steady, Davis will assume the four-year position in January 2005.
In the District 2 race, Fred Wetherington, a 36-year-old self-employed farmer in Hahira, emerged victorious. With eight of nine precincts reporting, he received 62.07 percent of the vote or 738 votes.
"I can't believe it," Wetherington said. "I feel really blessed and am ready to go to work. I look forward to working wit my fellow board members and getting things done. I am ready to serve this community and our kids."
The District 2 seat was formerly held by Willie Linahan, who resigned on March 2 after pleading guilty to a count of mail fraud and bank fraud in U.S. District Court on Feb. 24. Bill Rountree was appointed by the board to serve in the interim.
Board Chairman Bill Fuqua said Wetherington will assume the District 2 seat immediately, serving the remainder of Linahan's term, which expires Dec. 31, 2006.
Wetherington defeated Abby Rozar, 38, personnel supervisor with Langdale Forest Products Company and Hahira resident who received 3.78 percent of the vote or 45 votes; Emily Strickland Gregory, 56, retired educator and Valdosta resident who received 29.27 percent of the vote or 348 votes; and Charles D. Hutchinson who received 4.79 percent of the vote or 57 votes.
Incumbent Bill Fuqua was re-elected to another four-year term on the board. He received a total of 498 votes with six of seven precincts reporting, running unopposed.
Incumbent Jamie Jason Wisenbaker was elected to his first full four-year term with 586 votes, running unopposed.
On May 11, Wisenbaker was appointed to serve the remainder of Roger Christie's term, which ends on Dec. 31. Christie resigned from the board, citing interest in pursuing the director of transportation position in the Lowndes County School System.
Wisenbaker's full four-year term begins January 2005.
"I am enjoying it," he said. "It's a challenge making things work with our budget situation. We have a great school system and we are going to work hard to continue to improve academics, even though they are already high. We have our hands full this coming school year. "
To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.
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