Cinco Bayou’s Jean Hood and Mary Esther’s Margaret McLemore returned to office.
Okaloosa County’s two female mayors were returned to office Tuesday without a fight.
Cinco Bayou’s Jean Hood and Mary Esther’s Margaret McLemore, both seasoned political veterans, faced no competition in their respective mayoral races. McLemore will be sworn in April 2 to begin her fourth two-year term as mayor and Hood will be sworn in April 12 to embark upon her third consecutive two-year term.
Neither woman was aware that they’d accomplished their re-election goals together, but each said she was happy for the other.
“I think women bring a unique perspective to government. We’re problem solvers,” Hood said. “I’m proud to be one of the two female mayors in Okaloosa County and I would like to see more women in office.”
Hood was actually assured Tuesday that she will continue to preside over a female majority town council. Tatiana Abernathy, appointed last May to replace the retiring Carol Koch, will be returning to her council seat for a full term.
Abernathy, also elected without a contest, re-joins councilwomen Paula Andrews and Laura Driver, and Councilman Danny Dillard, on the board. They will choose from registered applicants on April 12 to seat a fifth council member.
McLemore was first elected as Mary Esther’s mayor in 2006 and served until 2008. She was appointed to the position again in 2010 when Mayor Chuck Bolton passed away. McLemore won the mayor’s seat again in 2014 and served through 2016.
She said she’s happy to be back.
“It was a tough ride, but I persevered,” McLemore joked.
Her goal this term for Mary Esther is “to keep things moving onward and upward.”
“I love Mary Esther. I just want to see us be the best little community we can be,” McLemore said. “With business things, with neighborhood things, I just want to see Mary Esther be the best it can be.”
There was one contested city council race in Mary Esther on Tuesday. In that race, sitting council member Bernie Oder, school teacher Susan Coxwell and Air Force Mechanical Engineer King Molder were vying for two open seats.
Molder and Oder emerged victorious. Molder received 291 of 698 votes cast and Oder 242. Coxwell captured the remaining 165 votes.
The lack of competition could be to blame for an incredibly low turnout. Just 15.73 percent of registered voters in Mary Esther showed up Tuesday to cast ballots. That is less than half of the 34.7 percent voter turnout in Valparaiso and 31.6 percent turnout in Destin.
Mary Esther residents also were being asked to vote on a referendum that, if passed, would allow city leaders to provide temporary property tax exemptions to businesses that create new jobs.
Economic development tax exemptions won the day, receiving a yes vote from a whopping 66.67 percent of the 384 votes cast on the measure.