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Article 29

Watford earns top votes; Akins misses the cut

May 02. 2006 11:22PM
The Dispatch

Voters have selected four Republican commissioner candidates — Sam Watford, Billy Joe Kepley, Don Truell and Kenny Moore — to square off against the Democrats in November, leaving behind one incumbent candidate and several strong contenders.

In Tuesday’s primary election, Sam Watford led the pack with 3,592 votes (16 percent) with the other candidates following close behind. Incumbent Cindy Akins came in fifth and won’t return to the board.

“I’d like to thank the people that voted for me,” Watford said Tuesday night at the Davidson County Governmental Center after the results were announced. “You always try to do the best you can for this county.”

Watford and Kepley embraced amid a crowd of family and supporters.

“I look forward to working with you,” Kepley quietly said to Watford.

Watford, 53, of Thomasville, is one of three incumbents who ran and will continue on to the November election with fellow incumbent Truell. This is Watford’s second run for office. He owns a construction company specializing in underground utility construction.

Kepley nearly edged out his friend Watford, collecting the same percentage of the vote at 16, and coming in just 75 votes fewer than the top vote-getter with 3,517 votes. Despite his strong showing in the light turnout, Kepley is cautious not to celebrate a November election yet.

“I’m not back yet,” he said, referencing his previous 14 years on the board. “I’ve still got some good Democrat friends to compete against … but you always feel good about a vote of confidence.”

Kepley served on the board from 1990 to 2004 but lost by five votes in 2004. If he makes it past the general election in November, this will be his fifth term on the board of commissioners.

The 70-year-old Welcome resident works at his sawmill and hay farm and does freelance photography work.

Both Watford and Kepley said they would take some time off before gearing up for the November campaign season, which Kepley hopes will yield a larger voter turnout. He called Tuesday’s turnout “a big disappointment to everyone involved in the political process.”

Watford called Kepley “a mentor” in an interview last week, and Kepley agreed that the two will see eye to eye on many issues if the two make it to the board. There will be a new era of “proactivity on the board instead of reactivity,” Kepley said.

Akins is the only incumbent who will not return to the board, missing the cut by a little more than 200 votes. She left the county governmental center immediately after the unofficial results were announced.

Akins went into the election as the longest-serving incumbent in the race, seeking her third term, and came out with 13 percent of the voters on her side (2,928 votes). The 42-year-old Pilot resident works in bookkeeping and commercial and residential property rental and is a silent partner in a restaurant.

Asked for her reaction after the results, Akins sounded disappointed but not overly emotional.

“We’ll start a new chapter in this book,” she said via telephone interview. “I’ll finish my time on the board and move on.”

As for running again in the future, Akins said she needed more time to make that decision.

“I can’t answer that right now; it’s a little too soon for that,” she explained. “Naturally it’ll be in the back of my mind; maybe in a few years we’ll see.”

Each primary winner has served at least one term as a commissioner, with Moore’s term dating back 12 years.

Moore was able to nab the fourth spot, edging out Akins with 3,135 votes or 14 percent of Republican and unaffiliated voters.

“I’m just elated, so gratified,” he said. “I was in (office) before; I had a record to run on.”

Moore, 53, served from 1986-1994 and served as chairman his final two years. The northeast Davidson resident works as a pharmaceutical salesman. If elected in November, this will be his third term on the board.

Truell “slid” into his third-place slot among the eight candidates, he said via telephone interview, saving most of his money and campaign efforts for the November election. He received 3,396 votes, or 15 percent.

“I can’t say I’m surprised,” he said. “Everybody anticipates winning.”

The election results were “about what I expected,” he added. “People in the county realize what I stand for, they realize I’m trustworthy, and they realize I have their best interests in mind.”

In preparation for the general election, “it all comes down to the three basic issues,” Truell said. Leading up to the election Truell had campaigned on pushing job recruitment, school construction and holding the tax rate down.

Truell, 68, was an incumbent candidate seeking his second term in office. The Thomasville resident is a retired Thomasville police chief and former Thomasville mayor and city councilman.

Larry Allen, a party insider, missed his first try at public office by 807 votes and said he would not run for commissioner again. He received 2,328 votes, or 10 percent.

“I want to thank my supporters. I’m surprised a lot of people came out to support gay marriage, to support higher taxes,” he said, in reference to a vote by Truell, Kepley and Watford opposing a resolution against same-sex marriage. “I don’t know what more I could have done.”

Allen became a member of the county GOP Executive Committee 10 months ago. The 45-year-old Lexington resident has also been a member of the state executive committee for two years. He works as a classroom instructor for Goodwill Industries.

Linda Dublin came in sixth place with 2,331 votes (10 percent) and did not wait for results at the Davidson County Governmental Center as most other candidates did. She took the loss in high spirits and said she would continue to support the winning Republican candidates.

“I don’t have a problem with it. I figured if I didn’t win, the Lord had something else planned for me,” she said via telephone interview.

After losing her first run at commissioner, she was unsure if she would run again.

“Oh, that’s a long way down the road,” she said. “It’s been an awesome trip for me. I don’t have any regrets.”

Dublin, 62, has been a registered Republican for more than 20 years and an officer with the GOP Executive Committee for seven of the last eight years, alternating between secretary and treasurer. The Lexington resident owns and operates an insurance company with her husband, Don.

Eric Osborne hung his head after the unofficial totals came in but admitted his inexperience could have been a hindrance on his chances for success. Being a young college student running against older, more experienced candidates was a daunting task. He received 1,245 votes, or 6 percent.

“I am disappointed, but what happens, happens,” he said. “I’m going to take a little vacation, a trip to Rome, after that who knows.”

This was Osborne’s first run for public office. The 22-year-old Thomasville resident is a student at Davidson County Community College and participates in a work-study program.

Robert Cooper can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 235 or at robert.cooper@the-dispatch.com.

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