CHARLESTON, W.Va -- Voters sent Republican incumbent Mayor Danny Jones back for a rare third term by a large margin during a Tuesday election that saw three veteran council members go down in defeat.
Jones defeated Democratic challenger Janet "JT" Thompson by 1,973 votes. Jones garnered 3,349 votes to Thompson's 1,376 in an election that saw 12.95 percent of Charleston's 38,303 registered voters turn out.
Incumbent council members Teresa "Tricky" Reed, the Republican representing the 5th Ward, Dave Higgins, the Democrat representing the 15th Ward, and Cheryle Hall, a Democrat representing the 20th Ward, were defeated.
Four at-large council members will be returning to their seats and newcomers Andy Richardson, a Democrat, and Chris Dodrill, a Republican, will join them.
Incumbent at-large Councilwoman Mary Jean Davis received the most votes in the 11-candidate field. Davis, a Democrat, received 2,646 votes.
Richardson was next in line with 2,612 votes, followed by incumbent Republican Tom Lane with 2,541, incumbent Democrat Jerry Ware with 2,003, incumbent Democrat Kasey Russell with 1,914 and Dodrill with 1,886.
Failing to clinch one of the six at-large seats were Democrat Martha "Gale" Poore with 1,525 votes, Democrat Pat Brown with 1,519, Republican L.G. Sturgill with 784, independent Jason "Slim" Blackhurst with 669 and Charles "Chuck" Parks with 423.
Jones will now begin his historic third term in the mayor's office. Only four mayors have ever been elected to serve a third term in Charleston's history, and only one, Republican Daniel Boone Dawson, served a full 12 years.
Jones said he wants to tackle tough issues like Other Post Employee Benefits and pension issues within the first year of the term.
"We're going to hit the ground running," Jones said.
One of the issues he plans on addressing in the next couple of months is city employee sick leave. Jones supports eliminating new sick leave for city employees and replacing it with general leave days.
This is because sick leave can be used to pay for health care benefits when an employee retires. However, employees will be allowed to keep what sick time they have already accrued, he said.
Jones also said that he is anxiously awaiting an audit on the efficiency of the fire department. The report will deal with staffing levels and whether the city should turn a station located on Corridor G behind Applebee's over to South Charleston.
Thompson refused to comment on the results.
Jones said he would miss Higgins and Hall, both of whom served two terms on council. Although the city lost three veteran council members, Jones said that it would not hurt cohesiveness of council.
"We're going to be just fine," he said.
He was very displeased with turnout.
"It's just sad," he said of the 12.9 percent turnout.
Lane, council's longest-serving member, said both Higgins and Hall had served Charleston faithfully. Lane, who has served on council since 1987, said this would be his last term.
Dodrill, a newcomer to politics, said he was very "humbled" by his victory. He want to work at growing the city reviving the downtown business district.
"And we need to look at retaining our residents and attracting new ones," Dodrill said.
Richardson believes his victory was due to a focused strategy when it came to going out and knocking on doors around the city as well as his Internet campaign. Like Dodrill, he believes city leaders need to focus on growth to cure Charleston's financial woes.
"We're not going to be able to cut or tax our way to prosperity, we need to grow," Richardson said.
Richardson and Dodrill will not be the only new faces on council. Democrat Mike Nichols, who defeated Reed 162 to 87, will join them.
Nichols said he was "thrilled beyond compare." He added that he believes Reed's recent arrest for drunken driving hurt her re-election bid.
"I don't want to say anything negative," he said. "I hope we can continue to work together to better the ward."
Nichols said he would work to make the West Side ward safer and more family friendly.
Reed was recently arrested for the fourth time in as many years for driving under the influence. She believes the DUI hurt her run. She also blamed negative campaigning by her opponent.
"But I do hope he does well for the 5th Ward," she said of Nichols.
Only 22 votes separated Higgins from his challenger Republican Courtney Persinger, who garnered 231 votes to Higgins' 209.
Higgins said this was his last run for public office. He didn't know of any specific issues that could have played a role in his defeat.
"I just think that Courtney (Persinger) put a lot of energy into his campaign," Higgins said.
Persinger said he would work on dealing with zoning issues in South Hills and that he would push for an ordinance allowing for gravel driveways in the city.
He would also push for a measure that would allow shops in South Hills to build closer to one another.
Republican Brent Burton defeated Hall 175 to 107. Hall could not name any specific issues that could have caused her defeat during her attempt at a third term.
"I just think that my opponent did an aggressive job getting his name out there and making sure people knew him," Hall said.
Council was not Hall's first public office. She also held a seat on the Kanawha County Board of Education for eight years. She would not rule out another attempt at some public office in the future.
"When one door closes another opens," Hall said.
In other contested races, Republican Mike Stajduhar defeated Democrat Chris Kimes 119 to 104 for the 7th Ward seat and incumbent independent Cubert Smith defeated Republican Sharon King 111 to 42.
Incumbent Democrat Marc Weintraub defeated independent Jonathan Caldwell 253 votes to 85 and incumbent Republican Susie Salisbury defeated Democrat Garold "G.W." Morris III 213 to 86.
@tagline:Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fal...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.