Troutman’s four-term Mayor Elbert Richardson said he needed one more term to advance important town issues, such as the development of a business/light industrial park. Challenger Ron Wyatt said the people he spoke to wanted change now, often citing the town’s high tax rate. In the end, Wyatt’s message carried the day, as he defeated the incumbent overwhelmingly in the Nov. 3 balloting by a 228 to 84 margin.
“I think the voters in our town sensed a need for change,” said Charles Delnero, 73, who serves on the town’s Board of Adjustment. “It’s similar to the calls for change we are hearing on a national level for next year’s presidential race.”
Delnero, who ran unsuccessfully for town board in 2009, also believes that there was a preference among the voters to have a younger person running the town. Richardson is 72; Wyatt is 49.
Town board member Paul Henkel also saw the outcome as a wake-up call: “The people’s message is that everyone from town government to staff needs to continue to grow to be more vigilant to respond to citizens’ needs and concerns. The citizens are the ultimate bosses of their governmental representatives and employees. When either of these two groups forget that, then the people will let their dissatisfaction be known through the ballot box.”
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Wyatt, better known around town as “Duck” rather than “Ron,” said he wasn’t surprised at the outcome but was very surprised at the margin of victory. “However, in speaking with residents as I traveled around the town I sensed a growing disconnect between the town leaders and the residents, and a feeling of disappointment in the way the town was being run.”
Prior to the election, Wyatt also met with the current town board members to display his knowledge of both past and current practices and issues that have had an impact on Troutman. “I’d like to think I earned their respect by doing that.”
For his part, Richardson says he is “proud of what has been accomplished for present and future Troutman residents during my watch. However, the voters have spoken and I respect their right to speak as they see fit. It has indeed been an honor and a privilege serving as the town’s mayor for 16 years and I wish Ron the best of luck as he begins his watch.”
Town board member Judy Jablonski and newcomer Jim Troutman were also elected to the town board. All the victorious candidates will receive the oath of office at the town board’s Dec. 10 meeting.
Turnout in Troutman was 18.38 percent according to the Iredell County Board of Elections, considerably higher than the countywide rate of 8.51 percent.
Dave Vieser is a freelance writer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.