Election Day (Tuesday) ended with two people winning first terms and one incumbent being re-elected in North Wilkesboro, while in Wilkesboro two incumbents and one former commissioner won.
There was a 27% voter turnout in Wilkesboro (574 of the town’s 2,133 registered voters) and a 21% turnout in North Wilkesboro (463 out of 2,182 registered voters), which was comparable to the turnout in other elections in the two towns.
Since and including the 2011 election, both towns had their highest turnouts in 2015: 31% in Wilkesboro and 25% in North Wilkesboro. In the 1990s, voter turnouts approaching 50% weren’t unusual in both towns.
In North Wilkesboro
For many observers, the biggest surprise of the day was 35-year-old Andrew Palmer emerging on top in the race for three North Wilkesboro commissioner seats.
Making his first attempt at an elected office, Palmer finished with 348 votes (30.77%). Michael Parsons, 59, who narrowly missed winning a North Wilkesboro commissioner seat when he first ran in 2015, finished second with 267 votes (23.61%). Bert Hall, 62, was re-elected to his fifth term in office with 201 votes (17.77%).
Results for the other three on the ballot, all first-time candidates, were Otis W. Church, 73, with 185 votes (16.36%); Tiger Posey, 41, with 106 votes (9.37%); and Chad George, 42, with 20 votes (1.77%).
Palmer said hard work in the form of knocking on doors, making phone calls and using social media were key factors for him.
“I think genuinely caring about my town and the people there made a difference. I believe relating to the people also was important,” he added. “I really do care and maybe people believed me…. I will remember the people who came out today and I won’t feel like I’ve won unless I can help them and help our town move in a good direction.”
Hall and Parsons both said they were pleased about Palmer being elected to the board.
Parsons said Palmer can help the board build a bridge to younger North Wilkesboro residents. He added, “Everybody’s input is needed to make North Wilkesboro a great place to live.”
Hall said there was a good field of candidates for the three North Wilkesboro commissioner seats, which he said isn’t always the case. “I am certainly proud of the job Andrew Palmer did. I think he and Michael Parsons will both make good commissioners.”
Palmer also said a lot of the people he contacted expressed concern about North Wilkesboro, especially the need for more jobs, how town government is spending money and work needed on streets and in neighborhoods.
Parsons said he was humbled and gratified about North Wilkesboro voters having enough confidence in him to elect him. “I would like to think that it’s due to my longevity in business.” Parsons has owned and operated Michael’s Jewelry in downtown North Wilkesboro for over 30 years. He said he will work to live up to that trust on matters of importance to the community.
Parsons said the need for economic growth, keeping town finances and being responsible with town spending were among topics raised by voters while he was campaigning. “I would like to see the town government create a better bridge with the people. I will work for openness and transparency.”
Hall said that due to family and business responsibilities, he wasn’t able to put as much time into campaigning as he did in some other elections.
Hall said improvements to the town’s infrastructure and building a new North Wilkesboro Fire Station are among his top goals for the upcoming term in office. “The first thing we must do is decide where” the new fire station should be built. “I don’t like the Second Street location and think it could be used for industrial purposes.” Hall said he preferred the North Wilkesboro Elks Lodge property.
The town bought the four-acre Elks Lodge property on Finley Avenue and Second Street in early December 2015, and nearly 20 acres on Second Street last year, both as potential sites for a new fire station.
There were no big surprises in the mayor’s race and for two town council seats in Wilkesboro Tuesday.
Jimmy Hayes, 72, with 287 votes (29.29%), was elected to his fourth term as a Wilkesboro councilman and for the fourth time was the high vote-getter in his race.
Andy Soots, 68, claimed the other councilman seat on the ballot with 254 votes (25.92%). Soots narrowly lost in his re-election bid in 2017 after serving his first term on the council. He was an unsuccessful Wilkesboro councilman candidate in several earlier elections.
Incumbent Gary Johnson, 66, lost his councilman seat, finishing with 223 votes (22.76%). Johnson was seeking his second consecutive term, but he served two terms on the council several years earlier.
Greg Minton, 57, making his first run for Wilkesboro councilman, lost with 213 votes (21.73%). Minton served one term as a Wilkes County commissioner but lost when he ran for re-election in 2018.
Mike Inscore, 70, was re-elected to his fourth consecutive term as Wilkesboro mayor, defeating Dallas Handy, 22. Inscore finished with 416 votes (74.96%) to Handy’s 140 votes (35%). There were four write-ins.
Inscore earlier served three terms as a Wilkesboro councilman.
Hayes said he campaigned by talking to as many people as possible, but didn’t do as much door-to-door work as in the past. He said his wife, daughter, sister and various other people contacted voters on his behalf. “I’m just thankful the residents of Wilkesboro gave me this opportunity and put their trust in me. I will do my very best.”
Hayes said his top goals for the term ahead included following through with plans for updating the Wilkesboro water treatment and wastewater plants. He also mentioned putting in new sidewalks in the eastern end of Wilkesboro and along N.C. 268 West.
Soots said he was happy and grateful about the election results and added that he would do his best to represent everybody and work to win the confidence of those who didn’t vote for him.
He said he heard a lot of comments about town taxes and spending by the Town of Wilkesboro while campaigning. “About a dozen or more times, I heard people say Wilkesboro’s (combined) taxes are starting to match the county’s taxes.” He said he supports finding ways to reduce taxes.
Soots also said he heard concerns from older residents about town spending on festivals and music events and some questioned how much these events benefit people who live and own businesses in the town. He said these costs and benefits need to be balanced.
Inscore said he was proud of the election results, but he congratulated Handy for running a good race. “I want to thank the citizens for allowing me to serve them for four more years.” He said the stability, experience and sound judgment he brings to the board and impartiality while listening to and serving citizens, made a difference for voters.
Inscore thanked his wife, Shirley Inscore, for her support and work on his behalf, including by making over 300 phone calls asking people to vote for him. “She always goes the extra mile.”
He said his goals include continuing revitalization of downtown Wilkesboro, plus bringing amenities that help draw young people and retain those already here. Inscore also cited working with a residential development company to bring more workforce housing to town. He said the company that built apartments on Winkler Mill Road is interested in addressing this need.