First Posted: 1/15/2009
FAIRMONT - Calling it the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, Charles Kemp took the mayor's seat on Tuesday by defeating the incumbent and two other challengers.
Voters also re-elected Commissioner Charles Townsend and favored two political newcomers - Jay Capps and Wayland Lennon III - to fill three seats on the town board, dramatically changing its racial makeup. Kemp surrendered his board seat to run for mayor.
“I've wanted to do this for a long, long time,” Kemp said Tuesday night. “You have a dream, then it comes true.”
Kemp received 526 votes - 53 percent of the ballots cast - in the election, according to unofficial returns. Mayor Nedward Gaddy came in second with 397 votes, too few for a second term. He could not be reached for comment.
Former Commissioner Rusty Perry and Terry Evans also ran, but were not factors.
“I got whipped,” Perry said, “but the people have spoken.”
Evans said he was disappointed, but will remain active.
“I feel great about running,” Evans said. “I knew it would be hard, but I wanted to give the town a new perspective. Maybe I'll try it again in four years.”
Kemp sees the mayor as “a cheerleader” who can rally residents.
“There are a lot of initiatives and programs that need to be looked at for the good of the community, including job enhancement, downtown revitalization and most important, bringing people together,” he said. “I will be working between now and the day I take office on Dec. 20 on a strategy so we will be able to move forward immediately.”
Kemp has served as a commissioner for 28 years. He is a social studies teacher in Dillon, S.C.
In the commissioners' race, incumbent Antonio Currie failed to win a second term, receiving 388 votes, according to unofficial returns. He could not be reached for comment.
Currie's loss, along with that of the Gaddy, both of whom are black, shifts the racial makeup of the board. Blacks had held a 4 to 3 majority. The new board will be made up of five whites - Kemp, Capps, Lennon, Wade Sealey and Mary Bruce Grantham - and two blacks - Townsend and J.J. McCree.
“Working with the people for the people has always been my platform,” said Townsend, who received 476 votes. “I know we're all working in the same direction. It may take a different route now, but it is still for the betterment of Fairmont.”
Townsend is a car salesman and an associate minister at First Baptist Church on North Main Street.
Capps, who owns and operates Fairmont Department Store, made his first foray into politics a successful one. He garnered the most votes, 552, in a field crowded with seven candidates. He could not be reached.
Lennon received 488 votes, the second highest total among board candidates.
“I'm excited as I can be,” he said. “This is an awesome feeling. I plan to go out there and get to work. I'm ready.”
Lennon, who was raised in Fairmont, works for GMAC Mortgage. He is the son of Butch Lennon, a former town commissioner.