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Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown was headed towards another four-year term in office as votes began to be recorded early Tuesday evening from the Nov. 6 election, and Del. Lacey Putney was on his way to an easy victory over Democratic challenger Lewis Medlin.
It wasn?t close in the District 6 supervisor?s race, either, where Andy Dooley, the incumbent was challenged by Tom Dooley and Annie Pollard. Pollard is the widow of the late Bobby Pollard who held the seat prior to his death in a farming accident in January. Dooley was appointed by the board of supervisors to fill the seat and, once again, what Supervisor Dale Wheeler calls the ?Pharaoh?s curse? prevailed with Pollard winning. No person appointed by the board to fill a vacant seat has ever, in Wheeler?s memory, won election.
The race for the District 5 School Board seat between Julie Bennington and Laura Rodes was close with Bennington holding more than a 100 vote lead with just the provisional and absentee ballots to be counted.
As of 9 p.m. in the race for Bedford County sheriff, incumbent Brown, with close to 90 percent of the vote counted, was leading with 7,427 votes (55.33 percent) while challenger Darryl A. Updike, a 24-year veteran of the Bedford Police Department had 3,254 votes (24.24 percent) and Charles D. Green, a United States Army retiree and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor at the Bedford Science and Technology Center, had 2,735 votes (20.37 percent).
Brown, a Bedford County native, has more than 40 years of law enforcement experience at the local, national and international level. He has served as Bedford County sheriff since 1996. He won the office originally in a five candidate race, ran unopposed once and won against one challenger in another.
During the race Brown touted his experience as to why county voters should keep him in office. He vowed to continue to focus on the areas that the department had built up since he first won election.
Voter turnout in the county for the sheriff?s race was about 30 percent. Brown won 60 percent of the county vote, but the race was much closer in city precincts.
More than 38 percent of the registered voters in the city of Bedford cast ballots in the sheriff’s race. With all of the precincts reporting in the city, Brown and Updike tied.Updike, a city police officer, garnered 531 city votes (39.68 percent) as did Brown (39.68 percent). Green had 275 votes (20.55 percent).
As of 9 p.m. Bennington, who currently holds the District 5 School Board seat, had 885 votes (54 percent) and Laura Rodes, in her third attempt to win the seat, had 757 votes (46 percent).
Bennington was appointed earlier this year to fill the seat after Bill Wiese left to take a job elsewhere. This was the second consecutive time the District 5 seat had been vacated for that reason. Wiese had originally been appointed to fill the seat when it was vacated by Dr. Keith Jones and Wiese later won the seat in a special election last year.
Annie Pollard won the District 6 board of supervisors seat garnering 63 percent (1,095 votes) of the votes while Andy Dooley had 23 percent (402 votes) and Tom Dooley 14 percent (237 votes). The total number of voters casting ballots was 1,735 (35 percent of registered voters).
Most candidates didn?t have to worry about election returns this year.
State Senator Steve Newman, Delegate Kathy Byron, Circuit Court Clerk Cathy Hogan, Commonwealth?s Attorney Randy Krantz, Faye Eubank and Rebecca Jones, the commissioner of the revenue and treasurer for Bedford County, all ran unopposed. Also lacking opponents were District 1 Supervisor Dale Wheeler, District 5 Supervisor Steve Arrington, District 7 Supervisor Gary Lowry, District 1 School Board Member Joy Wright, District 6 School Board Member Shirley McCabe, and District 7 School Board Member Debbie Hoback.
Delegate Lacey Putney, an independent, was challenged by Lewis Medlin, a Democrat. The outcome of that race was obvious, however, within two hours of the polls closing with Putney garnering 76 percent of the Bedford County vote. Putney will return to Richmond in January to begin his 47th year in the House of Delegates.
Election day brought a brisk wind to the Bedford area. It also brought brisk voter turn-out at a number of precincts.
?We had a surprisingly good turnout. I suppose the sheriff?s race brought them out,? commented Zack Black, chief of elections for Bedford?s Ward I, which votes at the Central Library. ?This is our third or fourth time with the electronic machines. We?ve had very little difficulty with them. Only one machine gave us a bit of trouble.?
Black was speaking around the middle of the afternoon and predicted between 700 and 800 voters. That ward had already seen 175 by 9 a.m.
He was still holding to that estimate by 5 p.m. The ward had seen 679 voters by that time. Black thinks that the sheriff?s race may account for a better turnout than he had expected before the day began.
Why does Black spend all day, a long day, working for free?
?I do this because it gives me the opportunity to see people,? said Black, who retired from the county school system.
He also believes in voting.
?I voted earlier, as did my wife and daughter,? Black said. ?My son will vote later. We never miss a vote. We believe in it.?
His wife, by the way, has a lot of experience with elections. Carol Black won quite a few of them, enough to keep her in office as the clerk of Bedford County?s Circuit Court for 22 years. She retired in 2006.
?It?s been great?steady all day and busy at times.? said Pat Rieley, Black?s assistant
?This is a public service,? she said, explaining why she does this. ?I?ve been working the polls since I was a little girl in Norton, Virginia.?
Rieley keeps her political preferences outside of the polling place. ?I?m apolitical in this office,? she stated.
Rieley recalls the not-so-long ago days when the voting machines were quite large mechanical machines. The voter would approach the machine and pull two curtains closed behind him. All you could see of the voter was the bottom part of his legs.
Once, a friend of her?s made light of this situation.
?Bill Roan, a neighbor of mine, was behind the curtain for a few minutes,? she said. ?Suddenly he stuck his head out from between the two curtains and said, ?Hey, there?s no toilet paper in here!??
A sense of humor is probably a valuable commodity for poll workers. Their day starts long before dawn and doesn?t end until the vote is reported to the registrar.
Although election officials felt the sheriff?s race was bringing people out, voters seemed to be voting because it was the right thing to do.
?I just always vote,? said Sandra Childress, a county resident who added that she has only missed one election since 1980. That was the first election she was old enough to vote in.
?You gotta vote,? said Jon Willdigg, another county resident.
?Otherwise, you can?t complain,? he added.
?I have a voice in our community,? commented Tammy Meador, ?and my children get to watch me do it.?
She had her two daughters, Madison and Courtney, with her. The girls, aged nine and seven, got to see how it?s done.
One county voter, Edward Bell said that he, too, always votes.
?We could all use a change from time to time,? he added.
By 4 p.m. 459 voters had come to the Bedford Christian Church precinct, south of Bedford.
?It?s been pretty much non-stop since six this morning,? said Sue Prunty, a poll worker.
She felt that decent weather ? sunny, not too cold and not raining ? explained the turnout.
By 5 p.m. 155 out of 367 registered to vote at the Odd Fellows precinct, located on Va. 43 just before beginning the climb to the Peaks.
David Dagenhart, the precinct chief, was expecting a 40 percent turnout. Last year, 79 percent voted. Dagenhart said that the area?s voters tend to be older, conservative and take voting seriously.
Odd Fellows was one of two precincts to serve as a test site for a new electronic poll book. It was being used in a parallel test with the standard poll book, which will be the official record for the day. Dagenhart said that the idea of the electronic poll book is that it can solve a number of issues. For example, if a registered voter turns up at the wrong precinct, the electronic poll book will be able to tell him where he should be. It will also be able to read a code on a voter?s driver?s license. Dagenhart said that this will make it possible to quickly resolve problems created by spelling errors in the voter?s last name.
Another reason why Dagenhart may be so excited by the electronic poll book is that he is an IT professional. He describes himself as a technology geek.