Phil Chapman, a retired educator who serves on the Parks and Recreation board and works part-time in a local hardware store, will replace incumbent Tim Poynter on the Fernandina Beach City Commission.
Mr. Chapman, a first-time candidate and city newcomer, defeated Mr. Poynter in the Group 2 race with 56.10 percent, or 1,463 votes in the election Tuesday. Mr. Poynter, a local restaurateur, received 43.90 percent, or 1,145 votes.
“The people spoke,” said Mr. Chapman. “They didn’t like the way the city was going and they spoke.”
Mr. Chapman celebrated the win with his wife Marlene Chapman, who serves as an alternate member of the Code Enforcement & Appeals Board, at Group 3 Candidate Ronald “Chip” Ross’s house on the north side of the historic district where supporters watched the election results post on the Supervisor of Elections website (www.votenassau.com).
“I want to rejuvenate people to come back to being involved in their city,” said Mr. Chapman. “I’m going to listen to people. In the (city’s) organizational chart, the citizens of Fernandina are my boss.”
Mr. Poynter, who pushed for a waterfront park and revitalizing the marina, waited for returns with supporters at Café Karibo, his restaurant on N. 3rd St.
“I appreciate the people who supported me and I congratulate Mr. Chapman,” he said. “I wish him all the best.”
Mr. Ross, an emergency room physician, came out on top of the three-candidate G3 race with 41.44 percent, or 1,091 votes. But he will face a runoff next month against Orlando Avila, who received 30.65 percent, or 807 votes, because no one captured more than 50 percent of the vote, as required. Businessman Medardo Monzon finished third and received 27.91 percent, or 807 votes.
Mr. Ross raised a glass of wine to supporters and while the crowd was delighted that a 10 percent margin separated him from Mr. Avila, people were also determined to refocus their efforts to get their candidate elected. And they’ll work for another month. One woman said she had expected to paint over Dr. Ross’s campaign sign to reuse for a craft sale but will, instead, put it back in the yard with its original message.
Mr. Ross, who shares a similar vision on several city issues with Mr. Monzon, such as preserving Fernandina’s ‘small town feel,’ is expected to pick-up many of his supporters in the Dec.12 election.
“I want to thank my supporters and my wife,” he said. “We moved here for what (Fernandina) is and we intend to proceed with that message moving forward.”
Mr. Avila, a shipping agent and real estate investor with a focus on tax deed sales, said on Facebook after the polls closed at 7:00 p.m. that he was confident that enough voters had supported him and he would avoid a run-off. Around 8:20 p.m., he posted: “We came in second and we will be in a runoff against Dr. Ross. Congratulations to all the candidates on a race well run. Run off will be December 12. Good night everyone.”
Mr. Monzon also thanked his supporters in a Facebook message.
“I wish to express my most sincere and deepest gratitude to all of you who for the past four months supported the campaign through tireless and unselfish efforts,” he said. “I made many more friends (than) I ever imagined and I will always treasure this experience.”
In exit polling, many people were eager to talk about their vote. But almost no one wanted to have their name published, including a man who said he voted for “the bald guys,” referring to Mr. Chapman and Mr. Ross.
“They’re just like me. I like that,” he said while laughing and rubbing his bald head.
His friend said he voted for Mr. Poynter and Mr. Avila. “I liked their experience,” he said.
“So we cancelled each other out,” said the bald man. “We should’ve both stayed home.”
According to the Supervisor of Elections website, 25.48 percent of the city’s 10,528 registered voters, or 2,683 people turned out for the election.
Former City Commissioner Ron Sapp, who spent a total of 24 years on the board between 1978 and 2009, cast his ballot at the MLK Center. He said he voted for Mr. Chapman and Mr. Ross.
“I like where (Mr. Ross) stands on the issues,” he said. “I believe part of the commission has been development prone and I’m not in favor of that.”
Mr. Sapp sponsored the bond issue that paid for the Egans Creek Greenway and the opening of 40 beach accesses. Mr. Sapp, who lives in the historic district, said he is concerned about the city’s rapid growth.
“I don’t know this place anymore,” he said. “Keep this a small place, a middle class town. (They’re) managing this city into a tourist town.”
Miller is Mayor In the straw ballot for mayor, Commissioner Johnny Miller defeated Commissioner Len Kreger with 61.47 percent, or 1,527 votes. Mr. Kreger received 38.53 percent, or 957 votes.