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Sylva election comes down to flip of a coin

election timeThe Sylva Board of Commissioners election came down to the flip of a coin — literally.

The final election results weren’t tallied until Tuesday morning when the final provisional ballots were counted. The four provisional ballots counted in the Sylva race didn’t change the preliminary results of the mayoral race but did make a difference in the commissioner results. 

With 182 votes, David Nestler was the top vote-getter, and Harold Hensley came in second with 163 votes. Greg McPherson and Charlie Schmidt were only one vote apart on election night, but the provisional ballots had them tied with 112 votes each.

In the event of a tie, North Carolina law allows local board of elections to “determine by lots,” which means election staff can flip a coin or draw straws or any other measure where the decision is left to chance. The Jackson County Board of Elections decided to flip a coin to decide whether McPherson or Schmidt would take office. McPherson was assigned to heads and won the coin toss two out of three times. 

“Isn’t that crazy? I never in my wildest dreams saw that happening,” McPherson said. “It got very surreal at the end — everything has been so cut and dry and then it ultimately came down to chance.”

McPherson was at the elections office when the coin toss happened and Schmidt was on the phone waiting to hear the results. Given that they are both local business owners, McPherson isn’t too surprised that voters thought they would both be good choices to work on economic development and move the town forward. 

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“But it certainly wasn’t a landslide so I have to think about how all those people would vote when making decisions,” he said. 

He said this is a great parable to show people how just one vote can make a difference. 

“And they let me keep the quarter when I left — it’s a very nice symbol,” he said. 

The four provisional ballots counted in the Sylva election didn’t change the results for the mayoral race. 

Candidates Danny Allen and Lynda Sossamon were separated by just three votes on election night, with Sossamon garnering 96 votes and Allen 93. Barbara Hamilton fell slightly behind with 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.

Final results were announced Tuesday showing Sossamon had stayed on top with 97 votes. Allen had 94 votes and Hamilton had 86 votes. 

“I’m very excited about the results,” Sossamon said Tuesday. “It’s been a very nerve-racking week wondering what’s going to happen.”

With so many candidates running and an expected low voter turnout in a municipal election, Sossamon said she wasn’t surprised at the close races. Out of 2,016 registered voters in Sylva, only 334 cast ballots — about 17 percent. Now that everything has been settled, she is looking forward to being sworn in at the first meeting in December and getting to work with a new board. 

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.

“I’m looking forward to working with a great board — we’ve got a good mix of new and older members and I think we’ll be just fine working together,” Sossamon said.

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