Lynn Haven Voters To Choose Next Mayor In Special Runoff Election
Lynn Haven voters are electing their next mayor Tuesday—almost a year after former mayor Margo Anderson stepped down following her arrest on public corruption charges.
Bay County Elections Supervisor Mark Andersen says no candidate in last month’s mayoral and city commission races got enough votes to win outright — triggering three runoff elections: one for mayor and two for city commissioner seats.
The Lynn Haven City Commission has governed with one vacant seat for nearly a year. That will change after the polls close Tuesday evening, when the commission will have at least two new members and possibly a third if City Commissioner Judy Tinder loses her seat. That will give the town a full, five-member commission.
Voters may cast a ballot Tuesday at the Lynn Haven senior center between 7 a.m and 7 p.m.
Andersen says turnout was about 23% in last month's special elections. The town chose to hold a special election to fill the vacant mayoral seat alongside its regular municipal elections, which take place in April. In the current runoffs, turnout so far is at 15% based on last week’s early voting totals and absentee ballots returned.
“If a city reaches 30% or even 40% turnout - that’d be a heck of a turnout," Andersen said.
Andersen says the office sent about 2,700 mail-in ballots to voters, but only about 850 have been returned.
On Election Day, voters must return vote-by-mail ballots only to the Bay County Supervisor of Elections' office, at 830 W 11th St. in Panama City. However, if someone has requested a mail-in ballot, they may still vote in-person at the center instead of dropping off an absentee ballot at the elections' office.
The two candidates competing to fill the vacant mayoral seat are Ellyne Fields and Jesse Nelson.
City Commissioner Judy Tinder is facing Brian Gray to keep her seat after the other candidate with the most votes in April's elections - Brian Dick - dropped out ahead of the runoff elections.
Mayor Pro Tem Dan Russell isn't seeking reelection, opening his city commission seat. In that race, Jamie Warrick and George H. Hines Jr. are the two runoff finalists.
While turnout hasn't been especially high in these local elections, there have been more candidates than usual seeking office, Andersen said. Each race had at least three candidates running, possibly contributing to the runoffs.
"In the mayor's case, it was an open seat, and then there was another seat that was also open," Andersen said. "When there's an open seat, there's usually more candidates."
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled mayoral candidate Jesse Nelson's first name.