LAURINBURG — Unable to overcome dissatisfaction with a plan for a new City Hall, voters tossed out two incumbents on the Laurinburg City Council in favor of challengers who said they would be more responsive to citizens.
District 1 incumbent council member J.D. Willis lost to Mary Evans, according to unofficial results from the Scotland Board of Elections. Laurinburg voters also favored at-large challenger James Garby Jr. over incumbent Dee Hammond, according to unofficial results.
But incumbent Drew Williamson was able to keep his District 2 seat by a wide margin — with 47.9 percent of the vote — against three challengers Frank Evans, George Medlock and Brian Gainey.
“I’m colleagues with Dee Hammond and J.D. Willis and a friend of theirs as well so I am disappointed,” he said. “Yet I would like to congratulate Mary Evans and James Garby in their elections. I’m sure we’ll find ways to work together.”
In District 1, Evans received 834 votes compared to 335 votes for Willis, according to unofficial returns.
Evans’s platform included her opposition to the council building a $9.1 million City Hall while failing to address issues like crime and poor infrastructure.
“The community has spoken. They do not want a $13 million building,” Evans said. “They have spoken.”
Evans is a graduate of I. E. Johnson High School and North Carolina A&T State University. She has previously served on the Scotland County Board of Education as vice chair. She is also the secretary of the Scotland County Democratic Women, as well as the Laurinburg Crime and Drug Committee vice president.
Willis said he plans to retire from politics.
“I’ve done the best that I could for the citizens of Laurinburg,” said Willis, who was seeking a second term. “Anytime you are in office you are going to have people that you can’t satisfy. This is it for me.”
Williamson was the top vote getter in the District 2 race knocking out three challengers — Brian Gainey, Frank Evans and George Medlock.
According to unofficial results, Williamson got 909 votes; Frank Evans received 617 votes; Gainey received 305 votes; and Medlock got 65 votes.
“I’m grateful to my supporters and those who voted for me,” Williamson said. “Now we need to come together as a city and try to move forward.“
Williamson said he has spent much of his time on the Laurinburg City Council trying to help the city grow. Williams said he will continue to work with council to take a proactive approach to making Laurinburg attractive to new industry and businesses. The Laurinburg attorney was first appointed to council in 2011 and elected to a full term in 2013.
Challenger Frank Evans said he was disappointed with the results.
“ I didn’t expect it to turn out this way, but it did,” he said. “People cast their votes and that is the system we operate under and I’ve got to respect that.”
Frank Evans ran hard on what he said was the council’s refusal to listen to residents when it came to the municipal project, and other issues like taxes and utility rates.
“Congratulations to the winners of all the seats,” he said. “It was a very contentious race and I feel I did all I could do and I will have to live with that. As far as were it will go from here, I am still going to to participate in council meetings and voice my concerns… who knows maybe in four more years I may do it again.”
Gainey thanked his supporters despite the loss.
“It means a lot and every vote counted this time,” Gainey said. “I appreciate every one of them and win or lose the voters have spoken and that is what they wanted. I will continue to work with our citizens, council, and boards in the county to make sure we are working for the future of Laurinburg.”
Medlock could not be reached for comment.
Garby beat Hammonds for the at-large seat, garnering 1,425 votes compared to 1,390 for the incumbent and 220 for challenger Roy Guinn.
Garby’s platform includes lowering crime, utilities and taxes and improving the city’s infrastructure. He said he would also like to see council hold weekly meetings instead of once a month.
But like the other winning challenger his top issue was his opposition to construction of a new City Hall.
“I thank God for wearing us like a glove and using us for what he believes,” Garby said. “We’ve been optimistic this whole time and it showed.”
Garby, who works in retail management, was running for political office for the first time.
Hammond was seeking a second term on the Laurinburg City Council.
“I’m disappointed that I lost, but I wish Mr. Garby the best,” Hammond said.
Reach Nolan Gilmour at 910-506-3171