By Crystal Burns
Sheriff Paul Thomas cruised to his second term Thursday, capturing 80 percent of the 9,975 votes cast for what could be the biggest margin of victory in a sheriff’s race in county history.
“It was a good ending to a long campaign,” Thomas said. “That margin speaks a lot for our administration and employees. There’s not enough I can say about them. I walked into [the Sheriff’s Department four years ago] as an unknown. We had to earn their respect and their trust. They worked hard to do a good job to take pressure off of me.”
Thomas said he appreciates the trust voters placed in him in 2014 when he defeated the incumbent by 25 votes and Thursday’s victory shows his plan inspired more confidence from citizens.
“I think the numbers showed that people didn’t really know me four years ago,” he said. “Now they know us. They saw the plan we put in place, and they saw the job we could do.”
Thomas and his opponents Taylor Atkins and Jimmy Turner all ran as Independents. Thomas received 8,032 votes, Atkins 1,298 and Turner 641.
County Mayor Tom Witherspoon won his third term handily, receiving 5,380 votes. Republican Tim Curry garnered 2,431 votes, and Democrat Keith Cunningham received 2,421.
Witherspoon originally picked up a petition to run as a Democrat but changed to Independent after Cunningham, the county Democratic Party chairman, pulled a petition. Witherspoon said he felt good about his decision.
“After you’ve done this job eight years, people judge you on your record as they should,” Witherspoon said. “I’m really proud of the Gibson Co. electorate for looking at the facts and deciding a good job was being done. People are tired of negative campaigns. We saw that in the governor’s [primary].”
Witherspoon noted that it’s the first time in county history that there is no Democrat in the mayor’s or sheriff’s offices.
Throughout the campaign, Witherspoon touted the leadership team he has assembled and said his goal is to keep the momentum going, especially in economic development.
“We’re going to build on that and move the county forward as quickly as possible,” Witherspoon said.
Circuit Court Clerk Cindy Flowers also scored a commanding victory in her re-election bid for her first full term. Flowers, an Independent, claimed 78 percent with 2,028 votes. Independents Thomas Hartigan and Dawn Shackelford tallied 138 and 408 respective votes.
The Gibson Co. Commission appointed Flowers to fill the retiring Janice Jones’ seat in November 2015. She was elected to the unexpired term in August 2016.
“I thank Janice Jones and the county commission for having faith in me, and I thank the citizens of Gibson Co. for trusting me in 2016 and again for the next four years,” Flowers said. “There are so many people that helped me, and I can’t express my gratitude to them in words.”
Flowers also complimented her staff.
“I have an awesome staff, and they stood behind me,” she said. “I appreciate the knowledgeable and professional service they give our county.”
In the County Trustee’s race, newcomer Melissa Workman (Ind.) won with 4,321 votes, defeating the incumbent Dana Davidson and fellow newcomer Wendy Richardson. Davidson, a Democrat, announced through local media that she would not campaign for re-election although her name would remain on the ballot. She received 3,062 votes. Richardson (Ind.) earned 1,983 votes.
Workman was nearly at a loss for words Friday morning.
“The response has just been overwhelming,” she said. “I don’t think I could say thank you enough.”
Workman is currently employed as Bradford City Recorder and said she would turn in her resignation to the mayor and board of aldermen Monday night at the city’s regularly scheduled meeting.
“I look forward to working with the team of employees in the Trustee’s office,” Workman said. “I expect a smooth transition because of their experience and knowledge. It will be a learning curve for me, but I have good working relationships across the county and my city government experience will also be beneficial. I will serve Gibson County proudly with honesty and integrity. I’m looking forward to the next four years.”
Workman said she appreciated Richardson’s hard work on the campaign trail.
Interim Register of Deeds Barbara Davidson, a Democrat, won her first campaign, garnering 4,635 votes. Independent Pam Dethloff received 3,032 votes, and Independent Chris Younger received 1,765 votes.
In 2017, the county commission appointed Davidson to fill the late Hilda Patterson’s seat.
“I’ve got big shoes to fill,” Davidson said of her predecessor. “I was taught by the best. I feel very honored to be elected. I met a lot of great people in this county, and I just want to thank everyone that helped me and voted.”
County Clerk Joyce Brown was re-elected to her third term, garnering 7,711 complimentary votes. Brown said she approached the campaign as if she had opposition.
“People can truly say they saw me everywhere,” she said. “I didn’t take anything for granted. I wanted them to know that I was thankful to them, and I wanted their vote.”
Brown said she and her staff pride themselves on providing good customer service to every citizen that comes through their doors.
“I have the best staff in the state of Tennessee,” she said. “We treat everyone with kindness.”
County Commission seats
Only three county commission seats were contested.
Bradley Owens received 505 write-in votes to win the District 1 Position 1 seat. William M. Lofton garnered 12 write-in votes.
Republican Eric Egbert defeated Independent John C. Hughey 721 to 476 for District 1 Position 2.
Independent Nathan Reed defeated Independent Jim Cooper 479 to 425 for District 19 Position 2.
Two constable races were contested.
Republican David Brent Paschall and Independents Scottie Betts, Larry W. Morris and Jerry F. Morris claimed the four constable positions for Districts 1-6. Paschall received 1,533 votes, Betts 1,074, L. Morris 842 and J. Morris 819. Kris Nilsson received 547 votes.
Republican Gene Skinner and Independent William Sims claimed two positions for Districts 16 and 19. Sims garnered 1,138 votes and Skinner 1,049. Independent Craig Blackburn received 391 votes.