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Land-is slide: Smith elected town’s first female mayor

Winners

BERNADINE HERNANDEZ/SALISBURY POST Meredith Smith poses for a photo in Salisbury, N.C. 7/8/19

BERNADINE HERNANDEZ/SALISBURY POST Katie Sells poses for a photo in Salisbury, N.C. 7/8/19

By Liz Moomey

liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

LANDIS — The Smith-Sells-Stewart trio succeeded Tuesday night.

Meredith Smith was elected mayor and Ashley Stewart and Katie Sells were elected aldermen.

Smith breezed by her four challengers, receiving 488 votes or 68.35%. Current alderman Bobby Brown, whose term does not expire until 2021, was her closest competition, with 143 votes or 20.03%.

“It was time for a change,” said Smith, who is thought to be the town’s first-ever female mayor. “It’s huge. It’s an emotional thing for me. I love this town.”

Stewart and Sells also surpassed their challengers by healthy margins. Stewart got 548 votes, or 39.94%, and Sells got 506 votes, or 36.88%.

Turnout was higher than prior years, with 714 people voting, compared to 357 voters in 2017 and 459 voters in 2015.

The town has been plagued with challenges in the past year, with the State Bureau of Investigation announcing a probe into two former town employees for allegations of embezzlement. And the fallout from the investigation’s start produced big turnouts at town board meetings and helped prompt some candidates to run. For years, the State Treasurer has also had concerns about the town’s finances.

Sells said Tuesday she is looking forward to serving on the board.

“It has only just begun for us,” Sells said. “It’s an exciting feeling. The work has only just begun.”

Stewart said the first task when the three take office is to gather as much information about the town’s situation as possible. He said the board needs to create an environment of trust throughout the community in the first 30, 60 and 90 days.

The three candidates will be joined on the board by Brown and Tony Corriher on the town board, whose terms don’t expire until 2021.

“We’re going to have to work together,” Sells said.

Smith said there will no longer be backroom meetings and there will be open dialogue among the board members.

Smith said the trio ensured they created a relationship with the voters and knew them by name and address as they came to vote Tuesday.

“It’s been a huge, huge outpouring of love and support,” Smith said.

Smith thanked everyone that voted and prayed for herself, Sells and Stewart.

Mark Connell finished the mayor’s race in third, with 52 votes, or 7.28%. Dorland Abernathy, who endorsed Smith for mayor on Friday, received 16 votes or 2.24%. Alby Stamey got 11 votes, or 1.54%.

For alderman, Darrell Overcash received 197 votes, or 14.36%. There were 83 write-in votes for alderman, which likely includes some support for Shirley Martin, who was a publicly announced write-in alderwoman candidate.

Buddy Porter Jr., a Landis police officer, received 38 votes. If elected, Porter would have to decide to quit as the town’s police officer or step down as alderman, due to state law.

The new board will be sworn in at the Dec. 16 Board of Aldermen meeting.

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