Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Marys Sweep a Surprise; the Council Boycott Was Likely a Contributing Factor

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Marys Sweep a Surprise; the Council Boycott Was Likely a Contributing Factor

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

ST. MARYS -- Few people were surprised in 2001, when the mayor of St. Marys and three City Council members were voted from office.

Many residents living in 500 homes forcibly annexed into the city a year before the 2001 election vowed to vote the incumbents from office -- and they did.

Tuesday's elections, however, caught many by surprise because the incumbents appeared to do nothing to draw the ire of voters.

For the second time in six years, every incumbent running for re-election in St. Marys was voted from office on Election Day.

"I had a feeling all along a couple of races would be tight," said Mayor Rowland Eskridge. "Some of it was a shock."

Sandy Feller, one of the challengers trying to unseat incumbent Jerry Lockhart in the Post 1 race, said he was not surprised all three incumbents lost their re-election bids. He accused some City Council members of treating voters like they aren't intelligent enough to determine the proper course the city should take regarding issues such as growth, impact fees and infrastructure improvements.

"They were tired of double-speak," Feller said. "They don't like being treated like they are stupid."

Greg Bird, winner of the Post 1 race, said he wasn't surprised at the election results in St. Marys because of the many issues facing the city that residents believe elected officials worked too slowly to resolve.

"It seems like a big price to pay," Bird said. "What the election results said to me is, 'We're watching and paying attention and we want someone to pay attention to us.' "

The city has seen lots of dramatic change with the closure of the Durango-Georgia Paper Co., which cost more than 900 good-paying jobs, Bird said. Rapid population growth, skyrocketing housing values and increased property taxes are also contributing factors to the sweep of incumbents from office, he said. …

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