Macon Mayor Robert Reichert overwhelmingly won a runoff race Tuesday to become the first mayor of Macon-Bibb County’s consolidated government.
“I’ll tell you this: The real work starts now,” he told several hundred cheering supporters at the Armory Ballroom in downtown. “We are turning the page, and Macon-Bibb County’s future starts tonight.”
Reichert triumphed over former Mayor C. Jack Ellis for the fourth time in two years, including wins in the 2011 Democratic Macon mayoral primary and a razor-thin victory in that year’s runoff. Last month, Reichert came close to capturing an outright majority in a six-man race in the Sept. 17 nonpartisan election for city-county mayor. Then Tuesday, Reichert secured a three-year term as the consolidated government’s top official.
With final vote tallies coming in just after 11 p.m., Reichert had won with 63 percent of the vote to Ellis’ 37 percent. Reichert received 25,899 votes to Ellis’ 15,182.
Ellis spent the night watching results at his Monroe Street house as his supporters gathered at Overtyme Sports Bar & Grill on Pio Nono Avenue.
When results became clear about 10:30 p.m., he headed to Overtyme to address the crowd of about 150, which included Macon City Council President James Timley and Councilman Henry Gibson.
Ellis entered hand-in-hand with his family and slowly made the rounds, shaking hands and chatting with supporters before making a short speech.
“We always accept the wishes of the people,” he said.
Ellis indicated he may not be done with local politics.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying right here in the city, so I’ll be seeing you all,” he said.
Reichert remained cautious throughout the evening, but crowd enthusiasm grew with his lead. About 200 people had gathered at the Armory Ballroom by the time the first precinct numbers began rolling in about 8:30 p.m., including several senior city staff members: interim Chief Administrative Officer Dale Walker, Central Services Director Gene Simonds, Executive Assistant to the Mayor Sam Henderson and Public Affairs Director Chris Floore.
Council members Tom Ellington and Nancy White, neither of whom ran for seats on the new Macon-Bibb commission, were among the supporters in the crowd. Mercer University President Bill Underwood was there, confidently predicting victory.
A parade of other notable political figures also came out in support of Reichert.
Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen, one of Reichert’s rivals in the Sept. 17 general election, came to cheer for Reichert.
“We need to get this man in office, and keep Macon-Bibb moving forward,” Allen said.
Commissioner-elect Al Tillman came in, followed by 2011 mayoral candidate Paul Bronson, former Macon-Bibb commission candidate Danny Glover and state Rep. Nikki Randall, D-Macon.
“The Repubs are here!” Tillman said, greeting Reichert with a joking reference to a scurrilous anonymous flier that circulated over the weekend. The flier painted Reichert and many fellow longtime Democrats as secret Republicans.
At 9:49 p.m. Reichert made his way through the crowd to the ballroom stage. A cheer went up as he finally acknowledged victory, thanking his family, supporters and campaign staff. He said he’ll reach out to all commissioners-elect on Wednesday, seeking to work with them.
“To the people who voted for me, I want to say ‘Thank you,’” Reichert said. “To those who did not vote for me, I want to say ‘Come join us.’”
Telegraph photographer Grant Blankenship contributed to this report.