After three vote counts and an emotional rollercoaster for some candidates, the election winners for Highlands Town Board of Commissioners are incumbents John Dotson and Brian Stiehler, and challenger Marc Hehn.
“We had a good turnout,” said Mayor Pat Taylor. “I want to congratulate all the people who ran for the three commissioner seats. It was a close race that underscores the need for every registered voter to cast a ballot. I look forward to working again with Commissioners Dotson and Stiehler. I welcome to the board our new Commissioner Marc Hehn.”
The first results posted at the precinct had Stiehler, Dotson, and Hehn (first to third respectively); winning the three seats up for grabs.
A second count posted by the Macon County Board of Elections had Stiehler, Hehn, and incumbent Eric Pierson as the top three.
The final results had Stiehler winning with 182 votes, and Dotson and Hehn tying for second with 134 votes. The final results do not include three provisional votes, which do not change the outcome. A provisional vote is when the voter’s eligibility needs to be confirmed.
Director of the Macon County Board of Elections, Melonie Thibault, said the vote-count confusion was unfortunate.
“The first numbers that were given were for Highlands One-Stop (early voting totals), the next numbers that were given would be from the Precinct for yesterday’s Election Day votes,” said Thibault. “The total of the votes (unofficial) are on our webpage.”
She added that if candidates want to know the results, they should go straight to the BoE.
“Results should not be given out to anyone until they are brought to the Board of Elections Office and read by myself and the Board,” said Thibault. “I think this is where the confusion has come from. The results that were posted by the Chief Judge of the Highlands Precinct was for Election Day only. In the future, if a candidate wants to be updated on the election results they should either watch the scrolling screen we provide on our website on Election Day, or they should come to the Board of Elections Office when the results are read in and approved by the Board and myself.”
Taylor said this type of confusion is tough on candidates.
“It’s been a rollercoaster night and it was unnecessary and very unfortunate for all the candidates,” said Taylor.
Final election results:
Thibault said there are 6 Provisional ballots from the Highlands Precinct that will not be approved or disapproved until Canvass Day, Nov. 15 at 11 a.m., which could potentially change the outcome of the election. In the final count, candidate Eric Pierson is only four votes behind third place.
Riding that coaster was 3-term incumbent Dotson, going from election winner, to loser, then winner again.
“I had some mixed emotions,” said Dotson. “I believe in term limits and if it shakes out I had lost or the count changes again, then the people have spoken. I like doing this. I want to continue moving town in a positive direction and always listening and getting input from people.”
2-term incumbent Steihler won with the most votes topping the chart at 182.
“I feel like I’ve changed over the years as a board member,” he said. “I’ve definitely become more well-rounded in my thought process. I used to think that money was the driving indicator of many things; for instance, if the town could collect more revenue from X, then it was a win for the community. But now as I’ve gotten older and continue to mature, I realize our number one priority is quality of life. That’s what we need to focus on, maintaining the quality of life for local residents and making sure visitors are getting a quality experience when they come visit Highlands.”
Steihler added that he’s dedicated to the well-being of the town because he cares.
“This town means the world to me,” he said. “I’m blessed to have found Highlands and the way the community has been to my family, the school is great, and it feels like home to us. We love it here and I feel like this is my way of giving back. I’m honored to represent the constituents of Highlands.”
Challenger Hehn said he appreciates the chance to effect change.
“Let’s believe in ourselves again and imagine our hospital and the medical practices on the plateau fully staffed,” said Hehn.
He added that it was a challenging election and could not have done it without a network of supporters.
“Highlanders, I am immensely grateful to my wife, friends, and supporters who so generously contributed their time and effort during this election,” said Hehn.
Newly-elected candidates are sworn in during the December monthly Board of Commissioners meeting.