There were more competitors vying for elected positions in Hamlet than any other municipality in Richmond County on Tuesday.
Unofficial results revealed that citizens turned out to support current elected officials, placing three incumbents back in office.
Jeff Smart was reelected mayor, over competitor Jesse McQueen.
Smart won with 563 votes, or about 56 percent, over McQueen’s tally of 439 votes, or about 44 percent.
This is the third term Smart has been elected to serve as mayor. He was chosen in 2007 and again in 2009. He is the business manager/partner at Mabry’s Drug and Home Care in downtown Hamlet.
“I’m very honored and humbled to have continued support from the citizens,” said Smart. “I would like to congratulate my opponent on a clean campaign. I appreciate his cooperation, I think we ran a good race. I look forward now to continuing the city’s forward progress.”
In a questionnaire sent to candidates prior to the race, Smart outlined his vision for the city, if re-elected.
“We will continue to focus on cleaning up our city by putting more manpower and machinery on our streets. We will continue to approach the owners of the dilapidated and abandoned structures throughout our city and demand action … We will continue to invest in our children by upgrading and expanding our parks and recreation facilities and programs … to invest in our Senior Citizen Center so that our Senior Adults will have a place to go for entertainment … to invest in projects throughout our downtown areas in order to support our business partners as well as to provide entertainment for our citizens.”
Smart also commented on the questionnaire that, “Even though our nation and our world continue to see difficult times, I am proud to say that Hamlet is holding its own. We continue to do as much as we possibly can while working within our financial capabilities. Over the last four years, we have not increased taxes for extra revenue. We have controlled our expenses and have been able to use grants from state and federal sources in order to accomplish projects in our city while spending a minimum amount of local money.”
McQueen, who ran against Smart during the last mayoral election and has served on the city council, said he plans to continue to “work hard for the city.”
“I’d like to thank all the people who helped me,” said McQueen. “Congratulations to Jeff. I gave it my best shot.”
When asked if he planned to run again, McQueen responded, “You never know what the next two years might bring.”
Councilman Bill Bayless did not run for another term, and three seats on the Hamlet City Council were up for re-election.
Incumbents Pat Preslar and Tony Clewis, along with newcomers Jonathan Buie and Dewey Brower, jockeyed for the positions.
Tony Clewis was elected to serve another term on the council, with 695 votes.
“This will be my second term serving on the council,” said Clewis. “The first time I was elected as a write-in candidate. I’m glad everyone came out and voted. I appreciate the support.”
Jonathan Buie was elected to serve on the council for the first time, with 651 votes. Buie is employed with CSX.
“I feel absolutely great,” said Buie. “I’m ready to get in there, learn how the system works and I’m excited about this new experience. This will be my first time serving in an elected office.”
Buie responded to the Daily Journal questionnaire by emphasizing that he “would like to see our recreational programs continue to grow and also work to make our parks bigger for families to enjoy together. Our community has lots of potential to grow and with an open mind with fresh ideas I believe together we can make Hamlet an even better place to live, work, and play.”
“I said I wasn’t going to run again, but I did,” said Preslar. “It’s so enjoyable to be part of serving this town. I feel good about what we’re doing, and I look forward to working with the city and staff for another term. It was a tight race, but I prevailed.”
Preslar mentioned in the Daily Journal questionnaire that, if re-elected, he would “remain committed to upholding sound budgetary practices because it affords the city the opportunity to maintain current levels of service without increases in fees to our residents.”
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.