Newcomer garners most votes in Hoffman race

By: By William R. Toler -

Two of Richmond County’s municipal elections on Tuesday were uncontested — those in Rockingham and Hoffman.

In Hoffman, newcomer John Taylor garnered the most town council votes with 40 — a result at which he was surprised to learn.

“I never expected that,” he said. “This is my first time even saying the word ‘politician.’”

Taylor, who grew up in Halifax County, worked for the state prison system for 41 years and decided to run because “If I’m going to live somewhere, I want to be a part of it.” However, he also admitted he hasn’t attended many council meetings and isn’t familiar with everything that goes on at the local government level.

“These people operate in a whole different world than I’m used to,” he said.

The only current council member not to file for reelection was Althea Sloan Cobb. Taylor said he knew her and they had been friends for a long time.

Taylor also promises to be a straight-shooter.

“They know if they ask me a question, they’re going to get my answer, not what they want to hear,” he said.

Rory Kevin Jones has the second-highest number of votes (37), followed by Daniel Kelly (34) and Riccardo Anderson and Cynthia Northcutt (30). Mayor Tommy Hart received 44 votes.

In Rockingham, Mayor Steve Morris received 350 votes, according to preliminary results.

Councilman Gene Willard was elected to his fifth term as the top vote-getter with 306.

“It always feels good to win, whether you’re opposed or not,” he said Tuesday night, although he acknowledged that people do like competition.

“I appreciate the people voting for me,” Willard continued, adding that he looks forward to “keeping things going” on the council for the city.

Unofficial vote totals show the council’s two female members, Anne Edwards and Denise Sullivan, five votes apart: Edwards with 291, Sullivan with 296.

Edwards was initially appointed to fill the seat left by Travis Billingsley and had to run in the 2015 election to finish serving the remaining two years.

Sullivan was first appointed to the council to replace Morris — when he was moved up to fill the mayoral seat left vacant by Gene McLaurin when he was elected to the N.C. Senate.

She has since been the candidate to serve the council’s two-year term. In the first election, she tied with Willard and said they drew straws to decide who would be heads or tails in a coin toss for the four-year seat.

Sullivan said she was “tickled to death I got the four-year seat.”

She also remarked on the low turnout this year, which is common during years where there are no presidential or congressional races. When she left the polling station at Browder Park during the 12 o’clock lunch hour, Sullivan said only 50 voters had cast their ballots.

“I’m sure people thought there was no need to go vote since we were all unopposed,” she said.

However, Sullivan added that the current council was a “good group” that works together and that she looks “forward to serving the people.”

Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675.

By William R. Toler