First and foremost let us a give a sincere, full-throated, congratulations to J.D. Rice and Scott Matheson.

The two candidates are headed for a runoff election, and one of them will be Valdosta’s next mayor.

Both men ran hard and ran clean.

We commend them for articulating clear messages that obviously resonated with voters.

Neither of them tried to put lipstick on a pig, each admitting that the City of Valdosta has some real challenges, and that more needs to be done to recruit business and industry, create jobs and provide basic services while breaking down barriers between two Valdostas. Their candor on those kinds of things has been refreshing.

It was a crowded field of candidates and the other three gentlemen in the race — Brooks Bivins, David Sumner and Kevin Bussey — also ran honorable campaigns, devoid of mudslinging, character assassinations and name calling.

We wish national politicians would take a page out of their book and conduct themselves in honorable ways.

While we are doling out praise, however, we have to add that even though voter turnout was up from previous city elections, it was still nothing short of abysmal.

The overall voter turnout, of around 13 percent, in a local election is a sad commentary on our community. Such a small percentage of registered voters bother to vote, and a large part of our population is not even registered, meaning that a relative handful of people actually made the decisions about the future of our city.

Local government has a more direct impact on our lives than government at the state or national level, but a vastly higher percentage of registered voters turn out for statewide elections and presidential elections. Voter apathy at the local level just seems to be getting worse, not better. The only thing that boosted numbers in this city election was that there were five people in the race each drawing in their own base of voters.

In the case of the mayoral race, the electorate does get a chance to do better. Turn out for the the Dec. 3 runoff and give our next mayor a mandate to lead our city.

On another note, the rollout of the state’s paper trail voting machines was not good and that is a vast understatement. There were technical issues in four of the six counties that served as pilots for the new machines. That’s a pretty pitiful percentage. This high priced, high tech voting system must work better and the state must hold the vendor accountable. 

With all that said, in no way do we want to cast a cloud over the outcome of this city election. We commend everyone who got out and voted.

The voters have spoken, and the winners are the winners.

We congratulate you and wish you well as you lead our city.

We encourage mayoral candidates, as well as those who will fill seats on city council and the board of education to always be open, transparent, accessible and remember that government belongs to the governed and not the governing.

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