Derek Duke is slated to be sworn in next Wednesday, June 27, as the new Statesboro City Council member from District 5.
Duke won Tuesday’s special election runoff by capturing 132 votes, to Don Armel’s 43 votes. Duke and Armel had been the top vote-getters May 22 in what was originally a three-candidate election. Konrad Godfrey came in a close third in the first round and so did not advance to the runoff.
“I am humbled and honored that my neighbors have nominated me to represent them at City Council,” Duke said in a statement he had prepared. “I want to thank both Don Armel and Konrad Godfrey for running a fair and honest race and wish them both the best.”
With 2,415 registered voters in Council District 5, turnout in the runoff was just 7.25 percent. A total of 175 residents cast ballots during opportunities that included Tuesday’s 12 hours of precinct voting at Pittman Park United Methodist Church as well as 11 days of early voting.
More voted early
More than half of the voters participating in the runoff, 109, actually voted before the traditional election day. That included 14 residents who returned mailed absentee ballots, plus 95 who voted early at the county annex from July 1 through July 15.
Duke has been elected to fill the unexpired term, ending Dec. 31, 2019, of former Councilman Travis Chance, who represented District 5 for more than 10 years. Chance resigned in March, citing plans for his family to move to a home outside the city limits later this year but also announcing his candidacy for a Bulloch County Board of Commissioners seat.
Chance is now in a runoff with Commissioner Walter Gibson for the Republican nomination to Gibson’s seat on the county board. That runoff, for Seat 2-B, will be decided July 24 by Republican-ballot voters in county District 2, and the winner will face Democratic nominee Adrienne Dobbs in the Nov. 6 general election.
‘Again next year’
A regular city election will be held in November 2019 including a four-year term for a District 5 council member. Duke will be the incumbent if he chooses to run, but any eligible resident of the district could offer as well.
Armel and Duke shook hands as soon as they received the results at the election office in the county annex.
“Congratulations, and I look forward to doing it again next year,” Armel told Duke.
Armel also said that the voter turnout was embarrassing, and he would like to see increased participation by residents. Voter registration increased for the 2016 presidential election, and city District 5 includes areas in and around Georgia Southern University, which has a much lower student presence during the summer.
However, Armel observed that because the district is supposed to contain one-fifth of the city’s population, actual turnout was probably even lower than 7 percent.
“As a democracy that supposedly values freedom, we should exercise it,” Armel said. “Voting is the best way to demonstrate that freedom, and the turnout is embarrassing.”
City Council had met in a regular session, with just three members and the mayor participating, at 5:30, concluding around the same time as the election did, at 7 p.m.
Swearing in June 27
With the July 3 meeting cancelled for the July 4 holiday, Mayor Jonathan McCollar and the council plan to have a called meeting Wednesday evening, June 27. The times 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. were suggested, with District 3 member Jeff Yawn, who was absent, to be consulted about which will work best for him to attend.
If the election results are certified in time, the new council member would be sworn in at the beginning of that meeting, said City Manager Randy Wetmore.
“I look forward to being sworn in so I can begin the work of representing District 5,” Duke continued in his statement. “I pledge to work with the mayor, council and city department heads as we continue to make Statesboro a city that soars.”
Duke, an Air Force combat pilot in the Vietnam War, went on to a career as an airline pilot, continued in the Air Force Reserve before retiring as a lieutenant colonel and has been involved in flying-related business enterprises. He and his Pat Harvey Duke, a retired public school teacher, have been residents of Statesboro for 40 years.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.