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Reflections after the election

The votes are in (full returns are on the Election Commission website) and I’m elected to City Council. The news media have, of course, reported the story (see The Oak Ridger and the News Sentinel) and I’m tickled to see that some fellow bloggers have offered their enthusiastic congratulations (see The Crone Speaks), positive thoughts on my election and their hopes for the future (see Atomictumor), or at least best wishes on the difficult job ahead (see Manland). Citizens Oak Ridge, Democracy for East Tennessee, and even the statewide Democracy for Tennessee also have reported enthusiastically on the election results. Unfortunately, my digestive tract started acting up the morning after the election and was “not right” for much of the time since, so I spent some time and energy on feeling sick that I otherwise might have spent posting here.

The three new City Council members (Tom Hayes, Charlie Hensley, and myself) will be sworn in Tuesday afternoon at 4 pm, so until then I guess we’re still civilians.

There’s still time, then, for some reflections on the election before buckling down to the challenges of the new job…

There’s no denying that it’s exciting to have won the election, and also to have prevailed in the referendum on Crestpointe, but easily the best part of this election campaign was the people. It’s humbling to reflect on the idea that 3,177 people voted for me (I must not forget that this was just 49.5% — less than half — of the 6,414 Oak Ridgers who voted in this election), but even more humbling to remember that many of those people helped with the campaign — by donating money, hosting “meet the candidate(s)” events, telling their friends about me, mailing postcards, walking door to door, processing voter data, phoning voters to help “get out the vote,” displaying yard signs (or vehicle signs or bumperstickers), talking with voters at precincts on election day, or helping with the campaign open house or election night party. “Grassroots” politics is about meeting individual people and connecting with them one-on-one. I’ve met some fascinating people here in Oak Ridge and made some new friends whom I hope to keep as friends for a lifetime (meaning I had better work hard to do the right thing as a Council member!). It was very special to be able to celebrate “victory” on election night with so many of the people whose hard work helped elect me and helped the “no” side prevail in the referendum. It feels good to know that we all played a part in lifting city election turnout to well above 30%. Now we will need to work together as a community (including City Council, other public officials, and concerned citizens of every viewpoint) to find and implement solutions to city problems that will get broad public support. (It’s not going to be easy.)

Some of the most important people associated with this election were the other candidates. (We spent a lot of time together over the 6 weeks leading up to election day….) I’m looking forward to becoming better acquainted with Tom Hayes (whose #1 tally of 3,644 votes — 56.8% of the voters — provides testimony to the respect he has earned in 41 years as a teacher, coach, and principal) and Charlie Hensley (with whom I know I share many values and priorities, although we disagreed on some key issues in this election campaign).

It’s probably unfortunate for the city that only 3 could be elected, because there was a lot more talent in the candidate pool. The 4th-place finisher, the gentlemanly Ray Evans, always impresses me with his intelligence and insight, which he displayed throughout this election season. I know we’ll continue to see those qualities expressed in his participation in local civic affairs and real estate development projects. It’s remarkable that Fred Childress (who had lived in Oak Ridge less than a year) ended up just 93 votes behind Ray (a long-time resident and former City Council member) in the vote tally. Like me, Fred picked up some votes from people who were mainly interested in expressing their opposition to public funding for Crestpointe. However, it’s clear from the results that this was not solely a single-issue election, and I believe that Fred’s showing demonstrates that he had made a powerful positive impression on many of us with his knowledge of economic and policy issues and his forthright commitment to “transparency” and “reason.” I hope that both the City and I will continue our new acquaintance with Fred, to everyone’s benefit. I believe that Jerry Marrow, who did not campaign vigorously (he did not even have yard signs), contributed importantly to the outcome of the election by being on the ballot and helping to give “no Crestpointe” single-issue voters an opportunity to support a full slate of three candidates for Council (he won support from more than one out of six voters). In public forums I enjoyed hearing Jerry make effective use of metaphors and imagery to illustrate his points, particularly about the need for action to bring in more basic industrial jobs. I expect we will see more of him as a public speaker and civic volunteer — and if he decides to run again, I predict that he will use yard signs. I was surprised by the low vote total for Ella Hawkins DuBose. I guess that because she remained neutral on Crestpointe until the final days of the election process, she failed to get votes from single-issue voters on either side of the issue. However, her care for both people and community, together with her awareness of public issues and solutions nationally and around the country, showed through in public forums and conversations. I know she has a powerful combination of talents to share with us all, now and in the future.

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One Comment

  1. […] past city elections. That total was a 46% increase over my tally of 3,177 when I was elected in 2007 and more than double the 2,048 votes that Tom Beehan received in 2009, when he was the highest […]

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