SMITHVILLE, Ga. — When David Bady pulled out of what was then a three-man Smithville mayoral race a week or so after qualifying for the office, he held nothing back in explaining his withdrawal.
“I didn’t want to split the black vote,” Bady, who is black, said of his decision, which left incumbent Mayor Jerry Myrick, who is also black, to face the challenge of retired contractor John Word, who is white.
Myrick might want to send Bady a note of thanks this morning, as he used his support in the African-American community to hold off Word 100-67 in a race that drew 47 percent of this small community’s electorate to the polls.
“I always try to vote, but the mayor’s race is why I came today,” voter Pamela Bryan said after casting her ballot around 2:30 p.m. at the city’s downtown community center. “We may be a small community, but we want to grow. And the only way we’re ever going to grow is to get some new leadership here.”
Several calls to Myrick’s phone Tuesday night went straight to voicemail. Neither he nor Word responded to messages seeking comment.
In the city’s other contested race, Ward 2 City Councilwoman Willie Mae Davis held off the challenge of Juliette Bush by the slimmest of margins, returning to her seat on the council by a 14-10 margin.
Lee elections officials said they were pleasantly surprised by the turnout in a community that has been marked in recent years by voter apathy.
“Smithville traditionally has a low voter turnout, so we’re surprised at the numbers we’re seeing,” Lee Elections Supervisor Veronica Johnson said. “I’ve always said that government impacts people most at
the local level, and that’s why these local races are
“I don’t know what’s bringing the people out today, but it’s a pleasant surprise.”
Word, who is chairman of the Downtown Smithville Redevelopment Authority, challenged Myrick for what Word called the nine-year mayor’s “lack of leadership.” Davis said the incumbent mayor was holding the city back in her campaign for the Ward 2 seat.
But the retired P&G-Albany employee held onto the seat for another four-year term in the largely African-American community.
Word received all seven of the absentee and early voting ballots that were cast in the race, but those votes were not enough to hold off Myrick, who claimed 59 percent of the total vote to his opponent’s 40 percent. There were two write-in votes.
Davis, who earned her second four-year term on the council, outpolled Bush, a former Cooper Tire employee, 11-10 on Tuesday. Davis also claimed all three absentee votes.