Big Spring businessman Larry McLellan delivered a convincing victory in Saturday night's election for the mayoral seat on the city council, edging out challenger Roger Rodman with more than 65 percent of the city-wide vote.
McLellan led Rodman 698 ballots to 282 ballots — a whopping 70.15 percent to 28.52 percent — following the release of early voting totals just after the polls closed at 7 p.m. Rodman would close the gap only marginally by the end of the night, however, with McLellan taking the final victory with 66.63 percent (1,074 ballots) to Rodman's 31.33 percent (505 ballots).
“I was really pleased with the turnout and the numbers. I feel like the citizens of Big Spring have sent a message that they really want to see results in this city,” McLellan said. “I feel like they want to see things taken care of. I don't think this election was just about the tax rate, I think it was about progress, which is what the people of Big Spring want to see. As always, I'm in favor of getting our tax rate as low as is affordable for our citizens, but I also want to provide the services our citizens are entitled to and that will be my goal.
“Our first goal will be to look at the city staff we have. We can't run the city without a well-qualified staff and we're currently 28-plus employees short. The first order of business should be to get this staff back to normal. We have to get some folks who can drive these trash trucks and look for innovative ways to do that. Maybe we can piece together some retirees who can help drive a truck or do some mowing. I'm excited about the results. It sends a message out that Big Spring is ready to move forward and do some progressive things.”
Rodman said he and the other candidates vying for Big Spring seats spent plenty of time together in the weeks leading up to the election, and regardless of who won the races, Big Spring will be better off for it.
“We've all been with each other and visited with each other, sharing ideas for the betterment of the people of Big Spring, Rodman said. “That's the important thing. I congratulate Larry. He ran a clean race and a good race and won, fair and square. And I'll be here next time.”
In the race for the District 5 seat on the Big Spring City Council, Raul Benavides took top honors with 44.21 percent (187 ballots) of the vote, while opponents J.D. Smith won 33.81 percent (143 ballots) and Clint Collins took 21.99 percent (93 ballots).
Early voting in the race showed a similar outcome, as Benavides led with 123 ballots (45.10 percent), with Smith nabbing 100 votes (37.76 percent) and Collins coming in a distant third place with 46 ballots (17.13 percent).
Benavides' victory will be short-lived, however, as his inability to take 50 percent or more of the vote will pit him against Smithy in a runoff election in the coming months.
“We had three great candidates. I was always impressed with the candidates who ran and I'm glad we had them running for the seat. It didn't end up exactly like I wanted it to, but that's elections for you,” Benavides said with a laugh. “I'm ready to move forward and we should know soon when the runoff election will be.
“I plant to continue with the same strategy I've used up to today, just to meet people, talk to people and put myself out there for the public and answer their questions. I was telling folks earlier I really don't think there's a street in District 5 that I didn't walk during the campaign. I made sure I talked to people or left a brochure at their door. I feel like I got out there and I worked hard and that's what put me ahead in this race.”
Benavides said the main concerns voters have expressed to him are very serious challenges for the city of Big Spring, especially in the coming years.
“The voters I spoke with were concerned about water, infrastructure and trash pickup. Those were the three main topics on their minds,” he said. “Trash services have been spotty, at best, and that has been very challenging for the city. The drivers are being snagged by the oil industry and we're going through the same pains Midland-Odessa has gone through. Those were their main concerns and, as city leaders, we have to address them.”
Smith said he and his supporters are ready to once again hit the streets and meet with the voters of District 5 in preparation for the runoff.
“It's really important to get in front of people, shaking their hands and getting that eye-to-eye contact,” Smith said. “From here, I'm going to have to make sure I put the time in and go back and approach the voters from that stand point. We're going to have to revitalize the troops — our supporters and volunteers who have helped us throughout the campaign — and we're going to have to keep plugging away at this. We can't give up.”
Smith said voters in the district have expressed a number of concerns while he has been out campaigning, with the anticipated impact of the Cline shale oil play at the top of the list.
“Everybody has major reservations about this oil play and the growth it will bring,” Smith said. “Some don't fully understand it. So, if I can get the message out — what I feel is coming and what I've seen in other big shale plays — I should be able to get a lot of support.”
It was a night for incumbent candidates in the city of Forsan, as Fred Holguin, Ramon Holguin and Mary Gressett took the three at-large seats on the Forsan City Council.
Fred Holguin was the top vote-getter, bringing in 36.63 (74 ballots) percent of the vote, with Ramon Holguin receiving 27.72 percent (56 ballots) and fellow incumbent Gressett receiving 23.76 percent (48 ballots).
Challenger Rick Ebert received 8.42 percent (17 ballots) of the vote, while last-place candidate Tracy Carey took only 3.47 percent (seven ballots).
Contact Staff Writer Thomas Jenkins at 263-7331 ext. 232 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org