For the first time, Richmond Hill is gearing up for a run-off election, according to city officials.
Incumbent Billy Albritton and challenger Marilyn Hodges were the top two vote-getters during a four-way race for City Council District 4 Post after the regular election on Nov. 6.
Over the next two weeks, voters will decide the ultimate winner between the two.
Early voting for this race is Monday, Nov. 26 through Friday, Nov. 30, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The regular election will be Tuesday, Dec. 4 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. All voting will be at the Wetlands Center inside J.F. Gregory Park.
On Nov. 6, Albritton got ten more votes than Hodges. He would have needed 81 more to avoid a run-off.
The results in the November election were: Albritton got 264 votes, Hodges got 254, Kevin Artz got 108 and Darryl Peterman got 85.
"It used to be where you could win with one vote," city clerk Ursula Lee said. "As of about 5 years ago, we added the run-off stipulation where you have to have 50 percent plus one vote. This is the first time we’ve had to use it though."
Both candidates are hoping to have as big a turnout as the general election, which had the strongest turnout to date for the city, with around 700 residents casting a ballot.
"Going into it, I knew there was a high likelihood for a run-off," Albritton said. "It’s just inevitable when you’ve got four names on the ballot."
He said his campaigning strategy is the same for the run-off as it was for the general election.
"I’m getting out and visiting voters," he said. "Trying to catch people at home has created a bit of a challenge, though as I’m not one to bug people after dark. I’ve seen a lot of new people since the election. I’ve also been trying to spread the word about the run-off as a lot of people don’t know about it."
Albritton said dealing with growth is the biggest issue in his platform. He discussed the recent Colonial Marsh issue which he and other current city officials were able to negotiate to nearly half of its originally proposed density and attain a city park as part of a buffer between it and Sterling Creek.
"Growth is going to come whether we want it to or not. You can vote against it, but it’s still going to happen," he said. "It’s a matter of allowing the type of growth to where we won’t lose our small town appeal. Even though we have grown so much, Richmond Hill is still a small town. If re-elected, I will continue to work for the best deals for the residents and city."
Albritton said campaigning has also given him the opportunity to clear up some myths about the duties of a city councilman.
"We get beat up on a lot of thing we have no control over like county roads or issues in the school system," he said. "Some of things we can take some credit for are working with the police department to keep our crime rate so low, approving a tree ordinance to help protect our environment, increasing the homestead exemption for seniors and being a watchdog for how our tax dollars are being spent."
Hodges said she, just like before the general election, is hitting the streets daily by going door to door in her campaigning.
"I’m mostly visiting those who voted on Nov. 6 to get them to come back out," she said. "You’d be amazed how many people thought the race was all over and that Billy won."
"I’ve gotten a very positive response from everyone," Hodges continued.
"Whether or not I win doesn’t matter because I’ve met a lot of great people and have had a lot of fun. It’s been a very positive and clean campaign. I told Billy the night of the election that I’m glad it came down to us two. Whoever wins, we’ll still be friends," she said.
Hodges said one thing that keeps her on the campaign trail is that her two young sons, 9-year-old Jaydon and 4-year-old Logan, enjoy it so much.
"They take turns knocking on the door and talking to people," she said. "I think I most certainly have the youngest campaign managers of anybody around."
Hodges is a single mother who became increasingly involved with local politics when she started attending council meetings in opposition of the Colonial Marsh subdivision, which was being planned for development next to where she lives at Sterling Creek.
She has attended many meetings since – including one where young Jaydon was awarded the key to the city for his efforts in gathering goods for Ware County firefighters.
"I love Richmond Hill and I’d like to give back to my community," she said. "I believe that I can offer some fresh, new ideas to city council about growth, safety, traffic and a variety of other issues. I was overwhelmed when I got so many votes, and I hope those same people come out next week."
The election will be decided on Dec. 4 which is Hodges’ birthday. She is hoping this will bring her luck. "If I win, what other person could say they got a present like that?"