Hard work pays dividends for Williamson

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 15, 2004

DEMOPOLIS – “It’s a new day” in the city proclaimed mayor-elect Cecil Porter Williamson at her home on Marengo Drive.

Williamson, who campaigned on the promises to be a full-time mayor and promote openness of city government edged out Mike Grayson for the mayor’s seat being vacated by Austin Caldwell, who will retire at the end of this term.

“I worked hard and won,” Williamson said.

“I worked so hard to get to this point,” she said. The district map of the city rested atop a cabinet in her dining room, streets outlined in pink where she had campaigned, those pen marks covering a majority of the streets in the city.

“The first thing I’m going to do is sit down and have a long talk with Mayor Caldwell,” she said from her front porch after welcoming well-wishers in the city street with calls of “Can you believe it, can you believe it?”

Williamson said that changes would certainly come to city government under her leadership as mayor.

“Some things are going to be changing,” she said, noting that whether she or Grayson had won change was inevitable.

“There’s a girl in the club house now,” she quipped.

Williamson edged out Grayson by a 1,270 to 1,055-vote margin, 215 votes or almost 11 percent of the vote.

Grayson’s largest margin of victory came in District 2 – which had a run-off between Freddie Charleston and Charles E. Jones Sr. She outpaced Grayson by 229 votes, garnering 336 votes to Grayson’s 107.

It was a scene repeated in District 1, where incumbent Thomas Moore was unopposed. There Williamson gained a 191-vote margin, defeating Grayson 278 votes to 87.

In the city’s remaining three districts, however, Grayson edged Williamson by 6 votes in District 3 and by 34 votes in District 4.

Grayson’s largest margin of victory came in early in the evening in District 5. There he took a 165-vote lead, defeating Williamson 421 votes to 256.

“It was a tough loss,” Grayson said from his election-night headquarters at the Vine and Hoof, one of his businesses. “It’s really, really discouraging.”

Voter turnout could account for some of his losses, and opinions were mixed about the quality of voter turnout in the run-off election.

Williamson said she was surprised by the high turnout.

“It was a huge turnout,” she said. “I thought it would be much smaller and usually is much smaller for a run-off.”

According to City Clerk Vickie Taylor’s numbers, 48.7 percent of registered voters turned out.

“I thought it wasn’t a very good turnout,” she said.

The city’s first election in August got 2,550 people out to the polls – 53.9 percent of registered voters.

Taylor said the number of registered voters increased by 49 between the primary and run-off elections.

Even with a few new voters and a lower turnout, Taylor said there very few problems reported during the day.

“Everything went smoothly,” she said, other than one poll worker not showing up to work. An alternate was called in to take his place.

Only 12 ballots were challenged in the entire election, and 134 absentee ballots were cast.

Of those absentee ballots, 79 fell to Grayson and 55 to Williamson. The Grayson camp challenged just three ballots and Williamson nine.

With her election apparently under the belt – election results will become official today after the city council canvasses the vote – Williamson reiterated her stance to be a mayor for all.

“I think people responded to someone listening. I asked for their vote and they were appreciative,” she said. “I thank everyone for their prayers and support … I’m looking forward to being a mayor of all citizens, a mayor of every single citizen to the best of my ability.”