There will be two new faces and a new dynamic on the Winder City Council come January as the two women running for seats won their elections Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Kobi Kilgore defeated incumbent councilman Al Brown in Ward 2 while Holly Sheats defeated Robert Lanham for the at-large seat to replace outgoing councilman Michael Healan. Councilman Travis Singley won re-election, fending off a challenge from Holt Persinger in Ward 4.
Kilgore and Sheats will be the second and third women to sit on the council, following Beth Caldwell, who served from 1974-77. Kilgore won with 64 percent of the vote (85-47) over Brown, who has served on the council since 2013 and was seeking a second full term. Sheats defeated Lanham, the current chairman of the Winder Planning Board and a regular attendee of council meetings, with 80 percent of the vote (651-153).
Kilgore and Sheats shared a hug Tuesday night at the Barrow County elections office and said they were ready to “get to work.”
“I’ve learned that it’s going to be hard work, that it’s not something that’s going to come easy,” said Kilgore, a Winder native and social worker in Jackson County. “I’m excited and anxious. I’m ready to research and put both feet forward to hear (the citizens) and be a voice for them.”
Kilgore and Sheats, who is currently a member of Winder’s planning board, both ran campaigns partly on improving the city’s transparency with its citizens, and Sheats said she believed those feelings were reflected in the voting results.
“I think it shows that the residents want to see a change,” Sheats said. “I think people just want to see a different way of thinking and they want to know they are being listened to. I’m ready to get in there and do what people voted for me to do, which is to ask more questions and think through things.”
Meanwhile, Singley, who defeated Persinger with 57 percent of the vote (189-138), defended the openness of the city government.
“I think Winder is more transparent now than eight to 10 years ago largely through the internet and social media,” said Singley who was re-elected to a third term after facing opposition for the first time. “Committee meeting times are posted online. All the (work session and voting session) agendas and agenda packets are posted ahead of time. If there’s anything we can improve on, we’re open to that, and the key is we’ve got to get more citizen involvement.”
During the campaign, Singley touted the city’s progress in recent years, particularly a revival of the downtown area and other various projects across different departments.
“I think overall people are happy with what’s going on in Winder,” Singley said. “There have been a few concerns I’ve heard and we’re working to address those. I’m really excited and looking forward to serving the citizens again. We’ve got a lot of unfinished projects that I’d like to see completed and just a lot of great things happening here.
“I think it’s going to be a young perspective on the new council, which is a good thing.”
Kilgore said she would embrace being that younger voice.
“I think for the community, they’re getting to the point where they enjoy new ideas and are ready for a change and ready to embrace it,” she said. “It’s just a matter now of how we go about it.
“I enjoyed the race with (Brown). I think he’s a great man, and I will do my best to serve this community with everything I’ve got.”
Sheats also gave a nod to her fellow planning board member, Lanham, saying he “has a lot to offer to the city.”
“I think he would be good in whatever capacity he’s willing to serve,” she said. “He has a good perspective that I certainly value.”
Elsewhere in the city, Mayor David Maynard won a third term unopposed on the ballot, though there were 37 write-in votes for other candidates. Maynard collected 688 votes.
Also, a “Sunday brunch” referendum to allow alcohol to be served at restaurants starting at 11 a.m. on Sundays passed overwhelmingly with 64 percent in favor. That will be an hour and a half earlier than the current time service can begin.
Turnout citywide was low, with only 836 out of 10,865 registered voters (7.7 percent) casting ballots.