Clockwise, from left: Huntley, Heemsoth and Beilsmith
Clockwise, from left: Huntley, Heemsoth and Beilsmith

Fort Mill Times

Huntley apparent Fort Mill Ward 3 winner; at-large race may go to runoff

By Michael Harrison

mharrison@fortmilltimes.com

November 07, 2017 09:29 PM

FORT MILL

Voters went to the polls to elect two town council members and it appears a run-off will be required to settle one of the races, according to unofficial results.

With York County elections officials reporting 13 of 16 precincts by press time, numbers displayed at the individual precincts after the polls closed showed incumbent Larry Huntley retaining his Ward 3 seat and at-large incumbent Trudie Heemsoth heading for a runoff with Julia Beilsmith, according to candidates who checked the numbers at the precincts.

Town council members serve four-year terms.

Huntley, a resident of more than three decades who retired from a plant manager job in Van Wyck 16 years ago and started on council five years later, faced challenger John Beilsmith. The county posted on its website that Huntley was leading Beilsmith with nearly 67 percent of the vote, 858-415.

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“I feel good,” about the results,” Huntley said. “The only (area) I was concerned about was Doby’s Bridge (Road) because that’s where a lot of new people live and I lost that one 49 to 47. It looks like a two-to-one margin.”

During two roundtable discussions in October, the candidates talked about residential and commercial growth, the prime issue with residents the past few elections. None said they are against growth, but are interested in ways to keep residential building less dense while encouraging more businesses to open in town, specifically in the downtown area.

Making Main Street one-way and creating more parking could be one solution, all agreed, an the two incumbents said those ideas are on the table in town council discussions.

“I realize there’s a growth problem and traffic problem, but I think we got the point across that the traffic is pass-through traffic (and the county and state’s responsbility),” Huntley said. He also pointed to infrastructure and fiscal improvements the town has made while he’s been on council as a reason voters gave him another term,

“We doubled the size of our sewer plant and we’re $800,000 in the black even though we spent money this year we hadn’t planned on,” he said.

Heemsoth, a former Fort Mill school board member and Chamber of Commerce leader, won a special election last year to finish out the term left on Guynn Savage’s at-large seat when Savage was elected mayor. She faced challengers Julia Beilsmith, who is married to John Beilsmith, and realtor Patti Rumsey. Vote totals posted on the county’s elections website showed her with 646 votes — 49.69 percent — to 342 for Julia Beilsmith and 306 for Rumsey.

If none have 50 percent when the vote is certified later this week, the two top vote-getters would face each other in a runoff.

“I know when you have three (candidates) it could split, so I expected that,” Heemsoth said.

“I would like to thank those who had the confidence in me to vote for me and if there is a runoff, I’d hope they would vote for me again.”

Julia Beilsmith, who ran against Huntley in Ward 3 four years ago, said she was happy to win more votes than she did the last time out, when only about 400 total votes were cast.

“It’s better than last time,” she said.

This time around, Beilsmith said she was a little more aggressive campaigning.

“I reached out to different people in the community and asked their opinions on what they wanted to see and had very candid discussions with them about what they want to see,” she said.

There are approximately 11,889 registered voters in the town of Fort Mill, county elections officials said Tuesday. For the April 5, 2016 special election, the one in which Heemsoth won her council seat, there were 10,306 registered voters and 375 of them — 3.64 percent — cast ballots. Heemsoth captured 214 of those votes.

Democracy in action

Turnout for elections in the town of Fort Mill has been historically low. Here’s a look at the number of registered voters compared to the number of ballots cast:

2017

At stake: An at-large town council term and one Ward 3 term

Total registered voters: 11,889 (approx); Votes cast: At-large 1,294**; Ward 3 1,273**

2016

At stake: Special election for an at-large term

Total registered voters: 10,306; Votes cast: 375 (3.64 percent)

2015

At stake: Special election for an at-large term

Total registered voters: 9,337; Votes cast: 408 (4.37 percent)

2014

At stake: Special election for a Ward 1 term

Total registered voters: 8,606; Votes cast: 104 (1.21 percent)

2013

At stake: Election for a Ward 3 term

Total registered voters: 9,277; Votes cast: 321 (3.46 percent)

*Source: York County Voting and Elections

**Unofficial as of Nov. 8