Jones, a Democrat, has served as chairman for the past four years. Douthit, a Republican, served as chairman for four years prior to Jones, but opted not to seek re-election in the 2002 race.
In the runoff for four commissioner seats, incumbent David Monteith emerged as the top vote-getter. Monteith will serve his third term on the board, which is considered a long stint for a commissioner.
“I hope that says that people are pleased with what I’m doing and trust my honesty. One thing I have always done is be honest with people and up front,” Monteith said.
Commissioner Genevieve Lindsay will also return to the board. Lindsay came in fourth. The results were a role reversal from four years ago, when Lindsay was the top vote-getter and Monteith came in fourth.
“That might spell something,” Monteith said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Monteith occasionally broke ranks with the rest of the commissioners, particularly on the county’s property tax rate.
“My number one agenda is to bring it down. We can do that. We can stop spending and wasting money. That is going to be my number one thing, to get that tax rate lower,” Monteith said.
Monteith said the addition of two new commissioners to the board could make it possible to address issues he previously did not have support for. It was known going into the election that there would be at least two new faces on the board. One sitting commissioner did not seek re-election, and one did not make it past the primary. Those two seats were won by Democrats Phillip Carson and Steve Moon.
None of the Republican candidates running for commissioner were elected in the Democratic-leaning county. But Mike Clampitt, a Republican commissioner candidate, said their campaign was successful in shaping the discussion.
“We made an impact, and we are a force to reckon with,” Clampitt said. “We shook the tree and we brought some issues to the forefront that people will talk about.”
The local Republican candidates were likely victims of the low approval rating Republicans have in Washington. Several voters interviewed in exit polls said they voted straight Democrat because they were fed up with President Bush and the Republican-led Congress.
“I just did straight Democratic all the way to send them a message: I’m ticked off,” said Dawn Rose, 52, of Bryson City, even though Rose is a registered Republican.
“I’d like to get rid of Bush as president. He’s starting fights and getting boys killed for no reason,” said Darrell Ross, 48, of Cherokee.
It’s difficult to tell whether the county commissioner race is indicative of sentiments on the North Shore Road. Carson and Monteith are for building the road. Jones, Lindsay and Moon are for a cash settlement.
Several voters said they chose their candidates in the commissioner race based on their views on the North Shore Road.
“I think it will be a deciding issue for a lot of people,” said Tracey Anthony, 34, of Bryson City. Anthony voted for the slate of commissioner candidates who support the road. Meanwhile, David Horn, 60, of Bryson City, voted for candidates who support the settlement.
But clearly not all voters made up their mind on that issue alone, however, since a mixture of pro-road and pro-cash settlement candidates won.