"I think maybe folks wanted a little fresher look, out with the old and in with the new, so to speak."

VALPARAISO — For the first time since 1964, the city has elected someone other than Bruce Arnold as mayor.

The man Valparaiso voters chose was Brent Smith, one of the now deceased Arnold’s most persistent foes.

Smith, who ran against Arnold in 2006 and 2010, tallied 321 total votes in Tuesday’s municipal election. It was enough to best former Councilman Joe Morgan, who gathered 309 votes to finish just 12 behind.

“I’m flattered at the very least, but I worked hard for it, too,” Smith said. “Now I’ll roll up my sleeves and work hard for the city and do the best job I know how.”

Superintendent of Elections Paul Lux said the margin of victory, while slim, was large enough that no recount was needed.

Heyward Strong, who had served on the Valparaiso City Commission for 46 years alongside Arnold, finished a distant third Tuesday, collecting 191 votes. Former commissioner Tom Browning and political newcomer Patrick Palmer garnered 119 and 49 votes, respectively.

“I’m surprised I came out as well as I did against Heyward,” Smith said. “I think the business as usual has gotten under people's skins a little. I think maybe folks wanted a little fresher look; out with the old and in with the new, so to speak. There’s a lot of new people here and some of the older ones I talked to said they’re worse off than they were four years ago. It’s kind of stagnant now.”

Morgan admitted to being “a little disappointed” with the outcome.

“The good thing is we had five people interested in the office, and everyone put their best foot forward,” the runner-up said. “The main thing is I can only hope for the best for the city and I wish the person elected the best of luck.”

Morgan said he, Browning and Smith had gotten to know one another on the campaign trail this year, and realized that they shared many of the same ideas.

Strong, who had been appointed mayor following Arnold’s death in February 2017, declined to take a phone call Tuesday evening. Both Morgan and Browning said Strong’s defeat might have provided an indication that voters were ready to move on from a regime that had held sway for half a century.

“There was good, strong support for Mr. Strong and the leadership he’s provided, but there was also a wanting to move Valparaiso forward in how we work with other cities and with business,” Morgan said. “There was recognition there are different ways to skin a cat.”

The people spoke, Browning said of the vote, and they spoke in big numbers for Brent Smith.

“I think they wanted to go Brent Smith’s way. He’s a businessman that everybody knows,” he said. “As far as Heyward, I think the city was saying it’s time to move away to a new era.”

Smith is the owner of Brent Smith Construction Co., an electrical contractor. He was elected to the City Commission in 2002 and 2008, and stepped down in 2010 to run for mayor. Arnold, who had spoken of retiring in 2010, jumped into the race shortly after Smith announced he was running.

Arnold emerged victorious following one of Okaloosa County’s more heated political campaigns.

Smith said he’s eager to present a “fresh face” at Valparaiso City Hall, and doesn’t foresee wholesale change coming immediately.

“We’ll see who the team players are, and those who aren’t won’t be there very long,” he said.

Joining Smith as elected Valparaiso commissioners Tuesday were Jay Denney, a newcomer to city politics, and Edward Crosby, a former board member. Both men ran unopposed for seats held by Browning and Strong.

Turnout for the mayor's race was 34.7 percent, with a total of 879 voters casting ballots.