Gobbel gets most votes in Spencer
By Emily Ford
SPENCER — Political newcomer Jim Gobbel took the top spot in the race for Spencer Board of Aldermen, surprising even himself.
“I’m honored to be able to serve the people of Spencer, and just to get elected,” he said.
By tradition, Gobbel will serve as mayor pro tem. Mayor Jody Everhart was unopposed in his bid for re-election.
Gobbel, who won 265 votes for 16.5 percent, played a pivotal role in the recent preservation of 40 acres of forest known as Spencer Woods, which may have boosted his performance in the polls. The town and LandTrust for Central North Carolina have partnered to save the forest and create a natural, undeveloped public park a few blocks from downtown.
All the incumbents running for re-election won. Scott Benfield earned 245 votes for 15.3 percent, Reid Walters won 241 votes for 15 percent, Jeff Morris took 221 votes for 13.8 and David Smith had 199 votes for 12.4 percent.
Newcomer Kevin Jones came in fourth overall, ahead of Morris and Smith, with 235 votes and 14.7 percent.
Robert Bennett did not win but had 10.5 percent of the vote.
Gobbel campaigned on working with Spencer merchants and the Spencer Business Association to promote ideas to attract new businesses. He said the town should take advantage of a major state tourist attraction, the N.C. Transportation Museum, and find a way to lure museum visitors across the street to downtown Spencer.
While economic development and downtown revitalization top his list of priorities, Gobbel said he also will work to attract new families to town by focusing on neighborhoods and code enforcement.
“I will not forget our neighborhoods,” he said. “Clean neighborhoods bring new people into town.”
A last-minute strategy to campaign together appeared to work for the winners. The six aldermen who were elected campaigned as a group outside Town Hall Tuesday, wearing buttons made by Morris in support of each other.
Voter Lauren Raper said she supported several, including Jones.
“He is articulate and well-educated, and I like to see young people take an interest in their community,” Raper said.
She also voted for Walters, Gobbel, Morris and Benfield, Raper said. Projects important to her include the library, park and Spencer Woods.
“I came out to vote for candidates who share my vision of Spencer as a family oriented community,” she said.
Betty Sedberry, whose late husband Ralph Sedberry was an alderman, said she was pleased with the slate of candidates but concerned about the economy and would like the board to recruit more small businesses to town.
“We really need to put a focus on that,” Sedberry said. “Don’t worry so much about the large industries.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.
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