Feather ekes out win; Cress, Linker nab aldermen seats in Granite Quarry
GRANITE QUARRY — It took Kim Cress’ daughter, who was flying for Delta some 800 miles away, to instruct him on how to look up the Granite Quarry election results Tuesday night.
When he did, Cress learned he was the top vote-getter for a four-year seat on the Board of Aldermen.
“I think the people trust me,” said Cress, who retired in 2016 as Granite Quarry’s longtime maintenance director. “They know me; I know the operations of the town. I know what the people want and need.”
John Linker, a former mayor, joins Cress as a new member of the Board of Aldermen. By solid margins, they unseated incumbents Mike Brinkley and Arin Wilhelm for the two seats that were available this year.
Meanwhile, incumbent Mayor Bill Feather faced a well-organized write-in campaign on behalf of former Mayor Mary S. Ponds, and he eked out a 16-vote victory in the separate mayoral contest.
Feather won re-election by a 186-170 margin. Ponds had not endorsed the write-in effort, organized by resident Ed Shell, but Ponds had said she would accept the mayor’s position if that’s what the electorate decided.
Ponds received 166 of the 170 write-in votes cast for mayor.
The final vote totals for alderman were Cress, 213; Linker, 164; Wilhelm, 138; Brinkley, 103; Doug Shelton, 53; Wes Rhinier, 19; and write-ins, 2.
Linker said he is pleased with the win and credited his experience in local government and a feeling that Granite Quarry residents were looking for some change — new ideas and new faces.
Sparked by the strong competition, the election turnout was a healthy one for a municipal race in Granite Quarry. Exactly 300 people voted at Town Hall on Tuesday, and early voting accounted for close to 100 more.
“Enough people came out that I think we generated some new interest in the town,” Linker said.
Feather, who worked the poll at Town Hall all day as several other candidates did, said he could sense that Ponds was doing well as a write-in choice. “I knew it was going to be extremely close,” he said.
Feather said one of the things he will try to do is “to bring everybody back together now.” One idea he is thinking about is establishing a mayor’s council to provide input from past board members such as Ponds and other residents.
“It’s a little bit of a wake-up call in one way,” Feather said of his close race and the unseating of Brinkley and Wilhelm.
There seems to “people out there who don’t want a lot of changes,” and some do, Feather said.
“I’m looking forward to completing a lot of things we started,” Feather added. “When you get comfortable with people, you hate to see that change,” but he said he looks forward to working with Cress and Linker.
The town board taking office Dec. 4 will include Feather, Cress, Linker, Jim LaFevers and Jim Costantino.
“As one of the supporters of the Mary Ponds write-in effort said, ‘So close, so very close.”’ Shell said in an email to the Post on Tuesday night.
Shell said the people behind the write-in campaign knew it would be “an extraordinary challenge from the outset,” especially with a candidate who didn’t want the job again.
“There’s no doubt we achieved a significant success even without winning,” Shell said, “and that was because there was a substantial number of voters who easily related to the grassroots advocacy for leadership better attuned to the public’s wishes.’
Shell said a clear message was sent: “Granite Quarry is far from united behind any intensive development of the town for the purpose of simply increasing the tax base.
“Another message is the residents want their voices heard and followed on the important matters facing the town.”
The write-in effort also had endorsed Cress and Linker, and Shell said “we were extremely gratified” voters had chosen them.
Though he was the night’s top vote-getter, Cress ran a relatively quiet campaign. He did not participate in the lone candidates forum. He voted Tuesday and went home, deciding not to work the poll.
He put up campaign signs only when his daughter advised him to do so.
“I think it’s just knowing people, working with people, being a problem-solver and just being a good employee and trying to help people with their problems,” Cress said of why he connected with voters.
Cress moved to Granite Quarry 26 years ago. “I like a small-town atmosphere,” he said, “and I think you can have a small town with big-time services, if it’s handled correctly.”
Wilhelm, as with many of the other candidates, said he was tired and heading for home after being at the polling location from 6:05 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. “My left knee is on fire,” he said at Town Hall.
But Wilhelm was encouraged by the voter turnout. “Real good, a lot of participation,” he said. “That’s awesome.”
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.
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