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Appomattox Town Council welcomes new mayor, two new council members

Appomattox Town Council welcomes new mayor, two new council members

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APPOMATTOX — The town of Appomattox will see a new mayor for the first time in 12 years after Richard Conner, who was running unopposed, was elected Tuesday.

Current Mayor Paul Harvey will serve instead as a town council member beginning July 1, alongside other incumbents Timothy Garrett, Jonathan Garrett, Mary Lou Spiggle and Claudia Puckette.

Nineteen-year-old Nathan Simpson is the new face on town council, having garnered 92 votes, replacing James Boyce who was running for his second term, who received 64 votes.

Timothy Garrett led the way with 101 votes, followed by Simpson with 92 votes, Jonathan Garrett who received 91 votes, Spiggle with 88 votes and Puckette with 75 votes.

First-time candidate Rodjray Rose fell short in his bid for a town council seat with 52 votes.

While local elections often suffer low turnout rates, election officers at the precinct inside the Central Virginia Community College’s Satellite Center on Confederate Boulevard said despite a slow, rainy morning, by noon turnout had exceeded the last town council election two years before.

Despite pandemic concerns, voter turnout beat 2018 numbers, with a little more than 100 of about 1,100 registered voters coming out to vote, versus the 76 voters of two years ago.

Twenty seven of the ballots cast were absentee.

Also on Tuesday’s ballot were two referendums requesting the General Assembly amend its existing charter to allow the town to elect its mayor and council members at the November general election date in odd-numbered years, and to increase the length of terms to four years to stagger future elections.

Both referendums passed and will move forward to the General Assembly for consideration next session.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing precincts to find unique solutions to ensure social distancing and safety requirements, election officers jury-rigged a drive-thru voting site at the CVCC satellite center using the large windows in the board room.

Chief Election Officer Becky Henderson said it was a last-minute solution after torrential downpours rendered plans to hold the election in a tent outside useless. The key was ensuring no ballots got wet.

Residents were able to vote without leaving their vehicles, instead pulling up to a window, showing their IDs and accepting a ballot tucked in a manila folder. Pulling up to a second window, they handed in their completed ballots. The folder was then discarded to ensure minimal handling of objects by any two people.

Henderson said the solution worked great and got a good reception from voters. A steady stream of cars ensured there was very little backup, the entire process taking only minutes.

“I feel like we have found a creative way to do this effectively and safely, without getting into the uncomfortable zone with others,” said Debbie Rush, another election officer working at the precinct.

With the only interaction happening through a window, and with folders recycled and clipboards sanitized, the process promised minimal contact with voters.

In the parking lot, candidates huddled under a white tent, occasionally grabbing for the sides to keep it from blowing away.

Spiggle said they always turn out to the polls on election day, encouraging residents to vote and spreading the word. Braving the chill, she said she ran home for her long johns, and another candidate rigged up a propane space heater.

“I’m feeling very good about today and very positive about the results,” Spiggle said. “I’m very happy we are getting this kind of turnout. Our drive-thru is very innovative of our electoral board here in Appomattox ... I just need my legs to to warm up.”

Appomattox County Registrar Sabrina Smith said all reported numbers Tuesday night are technically “unofficial,” though the Virginia Department of Elections website names 100% of precincts reported.

Sarah Honosky covers Appomattox and Campbell counties at The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5556.

Sarah Honosky covers Appomattox and Campbell counties at The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5556. 

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