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Sylva election tight to the end: Provisional ballots will determine mayor and one of three board seats

election timeThe race for Sylva town board has been crowded since filing began, and the election remained close all the way to the ballot box. 

With at least seven uncounted provisional ballots still hanging in the balance, mayoral candidates Danny Allen and Lynda Sossamon were separated by just three votes on Tuesday night, with Sossamon garnering 96 votes and Allen 93. Barbara Hamilton lagged slightly behind, pulling in 84 votes, but as a sitting commissioner whose seat was not up for election this year, she will keep her place on the town board through 2017.

The uncertain results led to uncertain reactions from the candidates. 

“We’ll just wait and see, but I hope that’s the final outcome because I would be happy with that,” said Sossamon. She’s worked hard during the campaign, she said, talking to as many people as possible and hanging out at the polls from 6:45 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. on Election Day.

“I tried to let people know that I wanted to be progressive in making Sylva a better place,” she said. 

Allen, who had to work his job as a security guard at the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching on Election Day, first learned of the outcome via a call from The Smoky Mountain News. 

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“That’s shocking. I don’t know,” he said when asked for a reaction. He said he’d expected the candidates to rank differently but offered his congratulations and confidence to Sossamon.

“I would just like to say congratulations to Lynda,” he said. “She ran a good campaign and if she’s the winner I want to congratulate her.”

The Board of Elections will count provisional ballots this week, with official election results published Tuesday, Nov. 10. 

On the town board side, David Nestler overtook incumbent Harold Hensley as the top vote-getter for the three open seats, earning 179 votes to Hensley’s 161. Either Greg McPherson or Charlie Schmidt will take the third seat — unofficial results show McPherson edging Schmidt by just one vote, so things could easily change once provisional ballots are counted. 

“I did not expect first place. I expected Harold to get first place being the incumbent in the race, but I felt a lot of really good support the last few days,” Nestler said as he pulled into his driveway at 9 p.m. Tuesday after a full day at the polls. 

He said he thought the information he gave out on his stance and viewpoints and the solid research he did to make sure he knew what he was talking about made a difference. 

“I think a lot of it is people are eager for communication, and I think I really did an effective job of communicating with people,” Nestler said. 

Hensley said he didn’t do a whole lot in the way of campaigning, following a philosophy of voter choice he’s acted on for many of his 10 years in office. 

“If they like what I done, they’ll send me back. If they don’t, they’ll send me to the house,” he said. “So evidently there was enough of them liked what I done to send me back.”

For his part, Schmidt said he’ll be waiting to see what’s in the provisional ballots but is surprised he garnered as few votes as he did, admitting he might have undercampaigned a bit. 

“As many people as I talk to, I just kept hearing, ‘You’re good,’” said Schmidt, who manages his family’s business, Speedy’s Pizza. “That with a very busy month at the restaurant limited my time.” 

The new town board will face a full plate of decisions when its members are sworn in. With an impending county revaluation expected to lower property values and therefore property tax revenues — combined with the fact that last year Sylva had to dip into its savings to balance the budget — the new board will have to decide whether to raise property taxes or make up the shortfall in some other way. 

Downtown traffic and the potential to expand parking, aesthetics, improving the look of Mill Street and cleaning up Scotts Creek, which runs through town, are just a few of the other issues candidates mentioned during the campaign. 


Sylva election results


Lynda Sossamon, 96 (35 percent)

Danny Allen, 93 (34 percent)

Barbara Hamilton, 84 (31 percent)

Town board (top three elected)

David Nestler, 179 (27 percent)

Harold Hensley, 161 (24 percent)

Greg McPherson, 111 (17 percent)

Charles Schmidt, 110 (17 percent)

Jeremy Edmonds, 95 (14 percent)

Vote counts are unofficial, and with at least seven provisional ballots still uncounted, either Sossamon or Allen could still win the mayor’s seat. Likewise, the third town board seat could go to either McPherson or Schmidt. 

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