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3 towns to have mayor contests; EC won't

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Edenton, Hertford and Winfall will all have contested mayoral races this fall. But only one mayoral candidate’s name will be on the ballot in Elizabeth City.

Incumbent Mayor Bettie Parker will be running unopposed for a second term in October after no challengers filed for her seat on Friday, the last day of filing for this fall’s election.

Parker in fact won’t be the only Elizabeth City incumbent without a challenger this fall.

Four councilors — those in both the 1st and 4th wards — are also running unopposed. Councilors Jeannie Young and Billy Caudle will be running unopposed for second terms in the 1st Ward and Darius Horton and Johnnie Walton will be seeking new terms without opposition in the 4th Ward.

Only one candidate filed for city office on Friday.

Chris Ruffieux (pronounced ruff-yuhrr) filed Friday morning for a Second Ward seat, creating a three-candidate race for two seats. Councilor Anita Hummer earlier filed for her eleventh term, and Councilor Gabriel Adkins filed for his second.

There is also one challenger in the Third Ward: former councilor Michael Brooks, who filed on Wednesday. He will compete for one of two seats against incumbent Councilors Rickey King and Kem Spence, both of whom are seeking re-election.

Ruffieux, 53, is vice president for Gannett Media Technologies International, and explained he recently moved to Elizabeth City.

In deciding to run for council, Ruffieux explained that he loves Elizabeth City and wants to give back to it. He also said he’s looking forward to the challenge of running for office for the first time.

“There’s something magical about this town,” he said. “I decided to run to really learn more about what matters to people.”

Asked about specific issues he’d campaign on, Ruffieux said he wants to learn what matters to residents. However, he added that he feels Elizabeth City has a lot of potential, and he wants the city to think about what it could be in five years. He also said he would like to grow relationships between city government and other local institutions.

While he’s not held city office before, Ruffieux said his job has given him decades of leadership and business experience, and he would bring a fresh perspective to council.

Asked why he was a better candidate for office than Hummer or Adkins, Ruffieux said he didn’t know enough about them yet to say.

In brief interviews Friday afternoon, both Hummer and Adkins said they weren’t familiar with Ruffieux, but planned to campaign and make their cases to voters. The city has important projects in the works and they want to see them to fruition, they said, citing the opening of a new senior center and job creation as examples.

Parker, the city’s first female mayor, will be the first mayor to run unopposed since Rick Gardner in 1995.

Asked about her reaction to not facing a challenger this fall, Parker was obviously pleased.

“Thank you, Jesus,” she said.

Campaigning properly takes a lot of time and work, and now she can keep her energy focused on the city’s business, Parker explained, adding she continues to get out and about in the community and hear citizens’ concerns.

Parker also said not drawing a challenger made her feel “pretty good” about her performance during her first two years.

“I think it’s a type of endorsement,” she said, though she said some residents might not be totally satisfied with her, and constituents always want to see more done.

Asked if she planned to endorse any candidates in the contested Second or Third Ward races, Parker said no.

“I’m just endorsing Bettie Parker,” she said.

In Edenton, a third candidate filed for the mayor’s post on Friday. Steve Biggs, an incumbent town councilor who holds an at-large seat, joined fellow Councilor Jimmy Stallings and first-time candidate Jacqueline Hardy-Lassiter in the race for mayor. Current Mayor Roland Vaughan decided not to seek re-election.

Edenton will also have a contested race in the town’s 2nd Ward, where Tray Taylor has challenged incumbent Councilor Sam Dixon, who is seeking re-election.

The council’s other two seats are uncontested. William Hackney High Jr., a local attorney, is running unopposed for the 1st Ward seat currently held by Stallings. Roger Coleman, meanwhile, is running unopposed for the at-large seat currently held by Biggs.

In Hertford, Councilman Quentin Jackson is running for mayor, as is newcomer Earnell Brown. Current Mayor Horace Reid decided not seek re-election.

Four candidates also filed for Hertford’s two open council seats. Incumbent Gracie Felton filed, as have first-time candidates Jerry Mimlitsch, Robert Hodges and Marie Jones.

Commissioner Sid Eley did not file for re-election, according to a State Board of Elections filings report.

In Winfall, Mayor Fred Yates is facing a challenge from Councilor Preston White. Virginia Powell and Carol Cooper are running unopposed for the two open seats on town council.