Incumbent Yokeley tops field in city primary

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

October 9, 2013

Incumbent Steve Yokeley was the top vote-getter — by a wide margin — among three candidates vying for his South Ward seat on the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners in a Tuesday primary.

Yokeley captured 304 votes, or 85 percent of those cast, according to unofficial results from the Surry County Board of Elections.

The second-place finisher was Jimmy D. Mitchell, 34, of 1618 S. Main St., with 34 votes, while Jerry Byrd, 63, of 214 E. Elm St., garnered 19.

As the two top vote-getters in the primary, Yokeley and Mitchell will now go head to head in the general municipal election on Nov. 5.

The incumbent took a commanding lead as precinct results trickled in, which he never relinquished. Yokeley won all seven precincts, for which voting occurred at five different polling places Tuesday due to some precincts being combined with others because of their low numbers of registered voters.

Yokeley, 66, a retired dentist who now owns a realty firm, is seeking his second four-year term on the board of commissioners and said Tuesday night that Mount Airy residents seem satisfied with the direction their city government is headed.

“Well, I think the outcome is a reflection of the fact that there are many good things happening in Mount Airy,” Yokeley said of the primary results.

“I think everybody is happy with the leadership the mayor and current board of commissioners has provided, and I’m just proud to be a part of that.” Yokeley thinks citizens want to see the city council continue on the same path it has for the past couple of years, when slashing property taxes — while maintaining key services — have been an ongoing priority.

During the primary campaign, Yokeley had listed making Mount Airy an even better place to live and work as his top priority.

Yokeley outspent his opponents, evidenced by campaign signs dotting the city’s landscape — where none promoting Mitchell or Byrd were noticed. And while that was a possible factor in his victory Tuesday, Yokeley believes others were at play as well.

“I just think it was a reflection of all I’ve done for many, many years,” the longtime Surry County and city resident said. “I think everybody knows me and knows I work hard and am honest…and want what’s best for Mount Airy.”

But Yokeley also realizes that while a battle has been won, there is still the rest of the “war” to go, leading up to the Nov. 5 election. “I’m not going to take anything for granted,” said the incumbent, who plans to continue to work hard.

“I’m really grateful and appreciate all my supporters who did vote for me in the primary and I want to thank them in advance for their continued support in the general election.”

Two other office-holders whose seats are affected by the 2013 municipal election, Mayor Deborah Cochran and North Ward Commissioner Jon Cawley, also will be on the ballot in November but are unopposed for new four-year terms.

The voter participation mirrored a traditionally low turnout for municipal primaries, with only 5.33 percent of the city’s 6,734 registered voters taking part.

That was referred to by Mitchell Tuesday night when commenting on the primary outcome.

“Overall, I’m disappointed in the turnout, but other than that, we’re just going to make a strong push for November,” said Mitchell, who is quality assurance manager for Joyce Farms in Clemmons and had an upbeat perspective Tuesday night.

“We still feel good about it,” he said of his campaign. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, obviously, but we’re going to do what we can for the next 30 days and hopefully with a stronger push we can get the voters out and turn things around.”

Mitchell’s campaign approach has involved going door to door, with finding ways to recruit large employers to Mount Airy his top city government priority if elected.

“We’re happy that we made it through this round,” he said. “We’re very excited. We’re happy we at least made it through this far.”

Byrd, who had campaigned for more openness in city government, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

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