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County government sees little change in general election

Webster County had few contested races in last Tuesday’s general election, but many of those that were contested brought changes to the local political landscape.

Only a handful of county seats were up for grabs, but most brought in new office holders.‘

Fiscal CourtAll three magistrate seats on Webster County Fiscal Court were on the ballot, with two sitting office holders facing challenges. One was defeated.

Long-time magistrate from the 2nd district, Jerry “Poogie” Brown, was unseated by first-time candidate Bob Hardison. The former pastor of Sebree First Baptist Church earned the victory with 58% of the vote in the five precincts that comprise the district. Hardison’s largest tally came from Slaughters where he carried 66% of ballots.

The turnover places a Republican on the court for the first time in years.

Tony Felker will return to the fiscal court after holding off Republican challenger Ken Stuart. Felker won 58% of the votes in the four Providence precincts. Felker easily carried the south and east precincts with 66 and 61%, respectively.

Stuart fell by eight points each in the north and west precincts where Felker earned 54% to the challenger’s 46.

Chad Townsend, Democrat magistrate from the 1st district, ran unopposed.

Sheriff

William “Billy Braden will take over the office of sheriff after fending off Democrat and current sheriff’s deputy Scott Starkey.

Braden won 70% of the total vote, and carried every precinct across the county. Starkey’s tightest challenge came in Providence, where Braden won with 58% in three of the four precincts.

The current Sebree police chief had defeated incumbent sheriff Donald “Bubba” Jones in May’s Republican primary.

Judges

Providence attorney and assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ben Leonard won the 5th judicial district bench with 81% of the vote in Webster County. He defeated Dixon attorney Charles Willson for the right to replace current district judge Daniel Heady.

Heady vacated the bench to run for the position of 5th judicial circuit court judge. Heady ran unopposed for the seat, and will take over in January for retiring Rene’ Williams.

Leonard carried Crittenden County with 78% of the vote, and Union County with 79%.

Brandi Hagan Rogers ran unopposed to return to the 5th circuit family court bench.

Constables

Kerry Dehaven will represent the 1st magisterial district as constable. The Republican won the office against Democrat Adam J. Yates, 61-39%.

David Lane Bumpus, also a Republican, will serve as 3rd magisterial district constable, having earned 62% of the vote to defeat James “Rooster” Poe.

Democrat Shane Derick Brown ran unopposed for the constable office from the 2nd district.

Unopposed county officials

The remainder of county offices will return incumbents, as all ran unopposed. Office holders are: Judge-Executive Steve Henry, Republican; County Attorney William ‘Clint” Prow, Republican; County Clerk Valerie Newell, Democrat; Jailer Greg Sauls, Republican; Coroner Darin Townsend, Democrat; and Property Valuation Administrator Jeffrey D. Kelley, Democrat.


WC schools get clean audit report

Webster County Schools received good news Monday as the annual audit of the district’s finances came back with a clean bill of health.

The board of education heard a presentation from Lindsey Nee of Duguid, Gentry & Associates, P.S.C., an accounting firm from Hopkinsville. Nee provided a summary of the school district’s activities over the past year, and the current condition of its finances.

The system’s current assets are valued at $37,570,246. This total includes Cash and equivalents, accounts receivable, inventory, and capital assets. Total liabilities are $32,074,197, and include accounts payable, accrued sick time of employees, interest payable, and long-term obligations, among other expenditures.

Nee told the board their handling of the day-to-day finances is a favorable position.

“The district budgets more than it spends,” she said. “That is a favorable position.”

The total revenue for the audited time period was $27,361,636, with expenditures at $27,318,000.

In other business, Superintendent Aaron Harrell addressed the recent report card the district received from the Kentucky Department of Education in regard to last year’s state testing.

While the middle school’s performance was in the yellow, the high school and the elementary schools all tested in the orange portion of the scale. Red is the next step down and the lowest on the federal classification scale.

“The results were not overly shocking to us,” Harrell said. “We implemented instructional plans before the year started to address them.”

He added that principals and faculty at each school plan all lessons and activities with the shortfalls as a guide. He stated teachers evaluated their instruction by asking whether it focused on improving in areas of concern.

Related to that mission is one of the goals of the district’s strategic plan, which seeks a 3% increaseyear-to-year in reading performance across all schools. The draft of that plan will be presented for approval at the next meeting Nov. 28.

The board also accepted a KETS offer of assistance of $23,919, and approved several monthly reports, field trips, and fundraisers.


Providence, Sebree to have new mayors in 2023

City offices around Webster County saw some changes, but few seats saw turnover from challenged races in the 2022 general election.

Providence

Providence will be under new leadership in 2023 after James “Butch” Hackney unseated incumbent mayor Doug Hammers. The challenger claimed a narrow victory in the race, winning 56% of the total votes.

Hackney’s strongest showing was in the east and west precincts, which he carried 63 and 61%, respectively.

Hammers served one term in the office after defeating incumbent Eddie Gooch in the 2018 general election. Prior to his election to the position of mayor, Hammers served on the Providence City Council.

In an unusual turn, all current members of the city council will return as only the six incumbents filed to run in this cycle.

The council winners are determined by the six candidates receiving the most ballots. Voters vote for their top six selections.

The council members returning and the number of votes received are Shannon Cole Layton (580), Mark Turner (516), Scott Frederick (505), James “Chip” Palmer (470), Keith Farrell (455), and Charles Mike Syers (427).

Sebree

With the retirement of Ozzie O’Nan, who has served as mayor and council member for Sebree, voters in the northern Webster County city chose Jeremy Brown by a wide margin to replace him.

Brown won 69% of the votes in the race, easily defeating Robert “Ray” Brantley (17) and James Nance (14).

The city council will return four of the current sitting members, as the body has experienced resignations and appointments during the last term.

The council will consist of the following members, with vote totals in parentheses: Judy Forker Gates (249); Jana Forker (236); Billy Joe Smith (224); James Allen Williams (208); Perry Culberson (189); and Melvin B. Pierce (159).

Pamela E. Jones, who is currently serving under appointment, received 119 votes but finished seventh.

Jason Gunterman, who is finishing the term vacated by the resignation of Debbie Stull, did not file to run for a full term.

Dixon

Dorris Crowley will be sworn in as the new mayor of Dixon in January, as the current commissioner ran unopposed for the office.

Terry Webb now serves in that capacity, having been appointed in May to fill the unexpired term of Carolyn Townsend. He will return to his chair on the commission as one of three candidates on the general election ballot.

Townsend resigned on May 16 due to the declining health of her husband and former Webster County judge-executive Jim Townsend.

Webb will join incumbent commissioners Randy Norman and Jeff Graham for another term.

The first item of business for commission in January will be the search for a fourth member. Peggy Poole, who recently retired as Dixon city clerk and was later appointed to the governing body, did not run for a full term.

Clay

Jackie B. Edens will return to the mayor’s office in Clay after running unopposed for the mantle.

The council will look much the same, with the exception of incumbent Paul Cowan who did not file for re-election. Rocky Williams will fill the sixth seat after running a successful write-in campaign.

The remaining five seats were regained by incumbents Kelly Hanor Ware (248 votes), Heath Stone (242), Jamie Edens Daniel (237), Michael Grigg (234), and Ronald Keith Pride (213).

Slaughters

All four incumbent commissioners will return to the table in Slaughters, though a new mayor will take office in January. Sitting mayor Jeffrey Coomes did not seek re-election.

Debra Rudd and Mickey Duncan received 44 ballots apiece as the top vote-getters for the commission. Kenneth Wells earned 42, and Chris Matthew Johnson won 39.

Christopher S. Winstead ran unopposed for the mayor’s office.


Veterans honored by PES students

Providence Elementary students honored veterans with various songs during the school’s annual Veterans’ Day parade. More than a hundred spectators lined the streets at the city mini park to enjoy the event.


Republicans win state, national races

Over the past decade, Webster County has seen a significant shift in its partisan affiliations. Once a Democrat stronghold, the county has transitioned to the Republican Party in its registration numbers.

General election numbers for state and national offices reflected that change last Tuesday as the GOP swept the four races for seats in Frankfort and Washington, DC.

State

Providence native and 27-year member of the state House of Representatives Jim Gooch, Jr., will return to Frankfort for another term.

Gooch, who switched to the Republican Party prior to the 2018 election, defeated fellow Webster Countian and Slaughters resident Alan Lossner, 74% to 26 for the right to represent the newly-drawn 12th Representative District.

Where the district once included a portion of Hopkins County, census numbers led the legislature to make that county its own district under a new 4th District. The 12th District now includes the totality of Webster, Crittenden, Union, and McLean counties.

The new district forced a primary between Gooch and Marion Republican Lynn Bechler. Gooch won a tight race to move on to the general election.

Gooch carried the remaining three counties, winning 83% of the vote in Crittenden, 78% in McLean, and 77% in Union.

Senator Robby Mills will also retain his seat for the 4th Senatorial District after claiming a sizable victory over Democrat challenger Bruce A. Pritchett. Mills won with a 74-26% margin over his fellow Henderson Countian.

Pritchett’s best performance was in Henderson County, where Mills won 58-42%. But the incumbent posted decisive victories in Hopkins and Union counties with percentages of 72 and 70, respectively.

National

Rand Paul will return to the U.S. Senate for a third term after winning 61.8% of the ballots cast statewide. In Webster County, Paul won 75% of the vote.

Kentucky has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since Wendell Ford in 1992.

James Comer will also return to the nation’s capital, earning a fourth term with a 77-23 percentage win over Democrat challenger Jimmy C. Ausbrooks.

Courts

All three candidates for the state supreme and appellate court positions ran unopposed.

Christopher Shea Nickell will serve on the Kentucky Supreme Court for the 1st Supreme Court District. Chris McNeill and Donna L. Dixon will sit on the bench for the 1st Appellate District’s 1st and 2nd Division, respectively.

Amendments

Both amendment proposals won in Webster County.

Fifty-six percent of voters said “yes” to question 1, which would have allowed the state legislature to call a special session. Currently, the state constitution allows only the governor to do so.

Sixty percent of said “yes” to question 2, which would have added language to state the constitution contained no provision for the legality of abortions or the use of tax money to pay for them.

Both amendments, however, failed statewide with “no” winning on narrow margins of 54% on question 1 and 52% on question 2.


Coomes, McCormick win school board seats

Only two of the five seats on the Webster County Board of Education were on the general election ballot last Tuesday, and one new member will take office in January.

Amanda Dale Coomes will serve on the board from the 3rd Educational District after running unopposed for the seat. She will take the place of Jill Simpson, who chose not seek another term.

Tim McCormick will return to the board, representing the 4th Educational District.


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