Newsoms elects new mayor, town council through write-in votes

Published 12:53 pm Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Newsoms resident Vanless Worrell has been elected the town’s new mayor following a write-in campaign, pending that he accept the nomination. Southampton County Assistant Registrar Lynn Burgess said on Wednesday that Worrell received 15 votes, outdistancing town councilman Joseph Steward (12 votes) and Wesley Story (7 votes).

Steward received 15 votes for town council, as well. Kendall Brock (15 votes), town councilwoman Judith Rose (9 votes), Damian Dwyer (8 votes), Worrell (8 votes), Jonathan Hinson (5 votes), Neil Drake (5 votes), town councilman Donald Bowling (5 votes) and Wesley Story (5 votes) round out the nominations for the six available seats.

“They have to say they’re willing to serve,” Burgess said. “The town will then decide how [the tie votes] are handled.”

Sixty-one ballots were turned in to the registrar’s office on Tuesday. Only those who received more than five votes were officially recorded.

“Unfortunately, not many people got out to vote,” said Steward, who noted that he would accept the position of mayor if Worrell did not. “It’s disappointing, but I know the rain didn’t help.”

Worrell was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

A graduate of Southampton County Training School and Paul D. Camp Community College, veteran of the United States Army and former town council member, Worrell ran for mayor in November 2014. Following the resignation of former mayor Kenneth Cooke, Worrell was named mayor in September 2015, pending clarification from the Code of Virginia.

He received three votes from town council at a special-called meeting, but the code requires that a majority of the body was needed to elect a new leader. Therefore, despite the fact that one of the six members was absent from quorum, four votes were still required.

At another special-called meeting with all council members present, Worrell again received only three votes. Town attorney Tim Drewry filed at that time filed a petition with the Southampton County Court System, who ultimately decided to forgo naming a mayor. Vice mayor Harvey Porter stood in for all intents and purposes until Monday, when he too resigned.

With the recent turmoil in the town, which includes — but is not limited to — Cooke and Porter unlawfully holding closed meetings and attempting to terminate the town’s police chief while holding their former positions, Steward simply wants move the town in a positive direction.

“We need a unified council to sort through all of the problems, be honest and do what’s best for the town,” he said.