Jan Reeger is officially the winner of the special election for the Bunnell City Commission, replacing John Sowell, the Bunnell Canvassing Board determined this afternoon.
A recount in her three-way race with Daisy Henry and Tina-Marie Schultz proved unnecessary, though Reeger won by just two votes, besting Henry 98-96. The vote from a provisional ballot could have made that recount necessary had it gone to Henry, dropping the margin below the 0.5 percent threshold and triggering the machine recount, as required by law.
Bunnell’s three-member canvassing board met at the Supervisor of Elections’ office at 2 p.m. today to consider the provisional ballot and count it. It was provisional because a Bunnell voter had gone to the poll without a photo ID, as required by law. So she was issued a provisional ballot. Such ballots do count once the canvassing board determines that the signature on the ballot matches that of the voter on the voter’s registration card.
In this case, there was no doubt among the three board members that it was a match. They unanimously voted to accept the vote. (The canvassing board is made up of Bunnell Commissioner John Rogers, who chairs the board, Kristen Bates, the city clerk, and Jerry Jones, a member of the city’s planning board.)
At that point the ballot was opened but not examined by the board or anyone else around the table. Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart took the ballot face down to one of her staffers, who ran it through a vote-counting machine. The staffer then took several minutes to merge the result with the rest of the results from Tuesday’s vote before bringing the full sheet of tabulated counts back to the board.
“Lots of hurry up and wait in our lives,” Reeger said as she sat at the table, with Henry to her right. The two had spent the minutes before the meeting and during it exchanging jokes and pleasantries, without a hint of tension or antipathy.
“Patience,” Henry, who served 15 years on the Bunnell City Commission, said. She was last on the commission in 2013.
The vote went to the third candidate on the ballot, Tina-Marie Schultz, who raised her tally to 88 votes. She was 10 votes short of Henry’s.
The provisional ballot did not change the results of the other race on the ballot or of any of the seven Bunnell charter amendments on the ballot.
Rogers congratulated Reeger, for whom this was a third run: she ran for county commission in 2008 and for the Bunnell commission in 2016. “This is what you call third time’s a charm,” she said.
Henry is not going anywhere. “I’ll be seen. I’ll be a thorn in her side,” Henry said. She frequently attends commission meetings and speaks to commissioners, advocating for various issues and raising awareness on matters not necessarily on commissioners’ agendas, often successfully.
“That’s not a thorn, that’s just showing ideas and rendering opinions,” Reeger told her.
Reeger will only serve for a year before she has to run again. She is essentially serving out the term of Commissioner John Sowell, who resigned a few months ago and moved out of the city. His term was up in March 2020.
In the other Bunnell election, incumbent Commissioner Bill Baxley won easily, and newcomer Donnie Nobles, a county employee in the road and bridge department, won the seat vacated by Elbert Tucker, who chose not to run again. So the new Bunnell City Commission will be made up of Mayor Catherine Robinson, Vice Mayor John Rogers, and Commissioners Bill Baxley, Jan Reeger and Don Nobles.