With a crowded field of six candidates hoping to win Richmond Hill’s Post 1 council seat, conventional wisdom heading into Tuesday’s special election was there’d be a runoff.
Conventional wisdom was wrong.
Former United Way of Bryan County director Kristi Cox practically ran away with it, according to unofficial results.
Cox got 407 votes, more than the 50 percent plus one vote she needed to avoid a runoff. David London was second with 133 votes; John Ring had 61 votes; Wayne Jackson received 60 votes; Justin McBride got 27 votes and Darryl Lawrence had 20 votes, according to Richmond Hill City Clerk Dawnne Greene.
Despite the large number of candidates, only 1,072 of the city’s 8,955 registered voters cast ballots in the election. However, roughly two dozen county residents who thought they lived in the city limits tried to vote, according to Greene.
Cox’s victory was announced during the regular session of Richmond Hill City Council, and her first reaction was “I’m just so tired right now.”
She then thanked her opponents, saying “I appreciate all of you ...The other candidates have become almost like family.”
Cox also thanked supporters, her family and well-wishers. She’ll be sworn in next month. Her term will expire in 2021.
The Post 1 seat became open in December following the death of Johnny Murphy, the city’s mayor pro tem.
Murphy’s death, and the resignations of council members Jan Bass and John Fesperman, both of whom took jobs outside the city, left Richmond Hill government in an unusual position in recent months.
Bass’ seat was filled March 5 when Les Fussell was appointed to finish out her term, which expires in December.
Tuesday night, before a quorum could be reached and before the special election results were known, Mayor Russ Carpenter swore in Bill Donahue, a Ford Plantation resident, to finish the remainder of Fesperman’s term. It, too, expires in December.
Donahue said Tuesday night his first goal is to learn more about the issues facing the city. In his letter to council, Donahue said, “I come with a clean slate. I have no preconceived positions on issues. Should I be selected I expect to work on ‘getting up to speed’ and hope to bring a fresh perspective regarding where we are and where we want to go.”
Donahue is a board member of the Savannah Music Festival and has served in a number of capacities for Memorial Medical Center, including as treasurer, chairman of the finance committee and as chairman of its foundation board. Donahue also listed his involvement with a number of national and international businesses, including O& P Designs, Inc., a Dallas, Texas-based provider of orthotic and prosthetic services. He’s also listed as either the founder, president or partner of a number of other firms.
Richmond Hill Mayor Pro Tem Tara Baraniak says she’s “beyond excited” to have Donahue serve on the council.
“After speaking with him, I knew right away he was the right person for the position,” she said in an email. “I look forward to working with him along with our newest city council members, Les Fussell and Kristi Cox. We are going to get so much accomplished in the next several months because we finally have a full, dedicated council.”
Donahue was selected over a number of applicants, all praised by Carpenter and Baraniak.
Among them were Savannah State administrator Lavetris Singleton; former councilmen Billy Albritton and Van Hunter; executive chef Bruce Ford, Magnolia Manor maintenance and safety director Lewis Tuttle; Gulfstream manager Mark Ott, a former B-52 navigator and U.S. Air Force Academy graduate; Steve Scholar, a retired Air Force veteran, former editor of the Richmond Hill Bryan County News and current chairman of the Bryan County Planning Commission; and Ronald Murphy, a veteran and financial advisor.