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Butner Marks Historic Day With Close Council Race

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BUTNER, N.C. — Democracy finally is taking hold in the Granville County town of Butner.

Butner is the only town in the country that is run by the state because it is surrounded by state and federal institutions.

Tuesday, all that changed.

Something about Butner has been noticeably different. People are not used to seeing their neighbors' names and faces on campaign signs.

"It's been great," said Carlene Fletcher, one of eight candidates vying for seven seats on the inaugural

Butner Advisory Council.

"I've had a ball. My pictures are all over Butner."

Said John Wimbush, another Council candidate: "It seems like the word wasn't getting around about the election. Sometimes people would ask me: 'What are you running for?'"

Eight people ran, but only seven will serve on the Council. It was all in the hands of voters, who seemed clearly divided in their choices. The race was too close to call Tuesday night and appeared headed for a runoff.

Tom Lane was in the lead late Tuesday, with 344 votes -- 15 percent of the total. Christene Emory was only seven votes behind him, with 14 percent of the total.

Furthermore, only 14 votes separated the seventh-place person, Virginia Moore (251 votes), and the eighth-place person, James Jones (237).

Prior to the voting, Linda Harris said she could not wait to mark her ballot.

"Well, it's wonderful," Harris said. "It's so nice to be able to come out and do this, and thank God that I can do it."

One position still not on the ballot is that of mayor. That power still rests with the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Newly-elected council members will serve only as advisors to the mayor.

"Yeah, it's advisory," Butner voter Alice House said. "But, still, we have the opportunity to vote for who we want."

Lane said being elected "gives us a little more clout" than being appointed does.

If the clout does not cling, there is always the next election.

"They will hold the Advisory Council a little bit more responsible for what happens with the town," Emory said.

For many voters, Tuesday's election was not so much about the candidates or the issues; it was all about choice.

"This is a great day for South Granville County, and I'm pleased to be a part of it," voter Dana McKeithan said. "I'm just pleased to see the community coming together, and that is what it's all about."

One of the biggest challenges the new council faces is growing the town's tax base. Most of the surrounding land is owned by the state, which limits the town's ability to build new homes or recruit industry.

But first, they need to settle who the seven council members will be.



Rick Armstrong, Reporter
Paul Ensslin, Web Editor

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