WARNER ROBINS — Chuck Shaheen became the city’s next mayor Tuesday night, besting opponent Chuck Chalk by less than 200 votes.
Shaheen, 49, took 2,927 of the 5,664 total votes cast for mayor in the runoff election. Mike Daley won the City Council Post 1 seat, receiving 3,317 votes to 2,048 for opponent Linda Carnes.
The number of voters who turned out to the polls was noteworthy in the sense that a runoff election usually sees less than half the original tally. The Nov. 3 election drew about 6,000 voters.
“It shows that the people see how important it is for our city to have a good leader,” said Shaheen, surrounded by dozens of family members, friends and supporters.
Chalk, 43, a program manager at Robins Air Force Base, said he was amazed at how residents took to him as he sought the city’s highest leadership position.
“We started this on Aug. 11 and I had to wear a name tag,” said Chalk, who received 2,737 of the votes, just over 48 percent of the total. “There’s a flavor in the community for fresh leadership. (The voter turnout) was a good message to that.”
Elections superintendent Vida Rawls said the numbers nearly held up because of the mayor’s race and the many twists and turns throughout, including the death of then-Mayor Donald Walker in September.
“It was a high profile race,” Rawls said. “That plays a lot into it.”
Tuesday’s election ended a four-month roller coaster that began with three candidates facing off against an incumbent who felt none of them had what it took to run the city. Walker’s death in September from a self-inflicted gunshot changed the landscape of the election dramatically, with the remaining candidates adding more focus to their individual agendas.
Chalk first criticized Shaheen in late October, accusing the pharmaceutical sales representative of not having the answers. An endorsement by Walker’s widow, Patricia, came just days before the confrontation at a political forum where candidates for the three city council seats were also in attendance.
Clifford Holmes Jr., who finished third in the mayoral race in the general election, said in the final days of the campaign that he planned to vote for Shaheen. Tuesday, the precinct that Holmes won handily in the general election went 453-245 for Shaheen.
Daley said win or lose, he was satisfied with all he gained over the past few months.
“I started July 11, and we’ve been running real hard since then,” he said. “I had the opportunity to meet some great people. I got to meet Linda Carnes. She’s a wonderful lady … and a great asset to Warner Robins.”
Carnes’ day had more ups and downs than she wanted. First, she was up late with her ailing husband Monday night and had to hit the road campaigning early. Then, she had to take him to the hospital in Macon, where he is in the Intensive Care Unit. She almost did not show at City Hall to receive the results along with the other candidates.
“I didn’t want to leave him,” she said, “but he wanted me to be here.”
While Carnes is glad the race is over, she said she will still be visible in the city. She also said she told Daley he’s got her support.
“I’ll still be here doing my thing as a city resident,” she said. “But this is not where I’m supposed to be. And I can take that.”
Shaheen said he plans to immediately get to work to have some things in place before he takes office in January. First, he plans to reach out to Chalk’s supporters.
“I wanna earn their respect,” he said. “I need to pull the council together as a unit ... and let the people know they have a voice in City Hall.”
To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.