Skinner talks to press members following his win in the mayoral race Tuesday night. Skinner's four-year term begins July 1, 2020.

Skinner wins mayor’s race; Reger, Bucklew claim two of three council seats

Editor’s note: Results are unofficial until canvassed, a process that begins June 15.

BUCKHANNON – As of July 1, there will be a new mayor in town, and his name is Robbie Skinner.

Skinner, currently a city councilman, racked up 703 votes to incumbent Mayor David McCauley’s 540, while Mike Bodnar finished in third with just 41 votes.

Skinner will begin his mayoral term July 1.

Following the reporting of all city precincts Tuesday night at the Upshur County Courthouse, Skinner expressed relief and gratitude.

“I’m overwhelmed; it’s been a long campaign – longer than we anticipated due to the coronavirus,” he said. “I am certainly glad that it’s over. I want to extend my sincere thanks to Mayor McCauley. I’ve learned a lot from him. I appreciate his leadership over the years. I’ve learned what kind of leader to strive to be from my experience with Dave, and I’m looking forward to putting my own spin on the office as well.”

Skinner said first on his to-do list is evaluating City of Buckhannon infrastructure projects.

“We have a lot of irons in the fire, and we need to evaluate those projects and figure out where we are with them and develop a list of priorities as to how we’re going to complete those projects in a timely manner that is beneficial to our citizens from a feasibility side as well as from a budget side,” he said.

Skinner said he wants to take care of some general maintenance around town – such as painting curbs – before delving into any new endeavors.

Beyond buildings, he also hopes to unite the community.

“One of the things that needs to happen here is, we have a long way to go in unifying our community,” he said. “There have been some divisive spreads that have grown here over the past few years, and we need to work on that. Buckhannon is a small town, it’s a family, and we need to act like it. We’re not always going to agree, but we need to get to a point where we’re not at each other’s throats when issues come up, so I hope we can work together – all sides, everyone.”

“I want to be the mayor, and I want us to be a council that serves everyone, not just the business community, not just the arts community, not just the college and not just Main Street,” Skinner added. “We need to be the council for everybody.”

McCauley extended his congratulations to Skinner Tuesday.

“We still have a terrific city, and we wish the new administration nothing but the best in taking this to the next level,” the mayor said. “It was a solid win for Robbie, and we stand behind him as he helps take us to the next place.”

McCauley said he hopes the city completes some of the initiatives he’s spearheaded, including building the Stockert Youth & Community Center multi-purpose gymnasium/auditorium addition, revitalizing the historic Colonial Theatre and pursuing grant opportunities that would allow for the extension of the Riverwalk Trail to southern Upshur County.

Passing the 1 percent sales tax will give city council more flexibility in the future, he said.

“The general fund has never been in as good of shape as it is right now,” McCauley said. “It creates all kinds of opportunities to expand things like our flower program to make downtown even bigger and better, so I would look forward to that continuing. We’ve got a great staff. I hope they all stay true to themselves and to the city, and I hope we continue to work together as a team to better our community.”

Incumbent city recorder Randy Sanders was the top vote-getter in the city recorder race with 714 votes to challenger Abigail Benjamin’s 490. Sanders said he was “feeling fantastic” Tuesday night.

“I’m humbled by the support the voters gave me, and I’m anxious to continue doing what I do. I enjoy working with the city employees, and I enjoy working with the public,” he said.

In the future, Sanders said he’d like to see Buckhannon become more of a destination for travelers.

“As I’ve said all along, I really want to see our town continue to rebuild its infrastructure,” he said. “We’re doing a good job taking care of what needs to be taken care of and replaced. I also think Buckhannon is a great destination town. I’ve produced live events for years all over the United States, so I want to try to attract more events into Buckhannon that are good for Buckhannon that the businesspeople in Buckhannon can benefit from and help build the economic base more.”

In the race for three city council seats, Jack Reger (531 votes) and Pamela Cuppari Bucklew (523 votes) were the top two vote-getters. The third available council seat could go to either incumbent councilman CJ Rylands or challenger Shelia Sines, who tied at exactly 423 votes.

Reger said he “very much appreciated” his supporters’ votes.

“I want to represent all people and be open and honest and do what’s right and best for the city,” Reger said. “We need to take care of immediate needs and have a vision of what we want to do in the future.”

Reger said he didn’t have one specific priority as he enters his term.

“Everything’s a priority,” he said. “I have a huge desire to plan for the future. If we want our kids and grandkids to stay here and slow out-migration (to other states and places), we need to create opportunities for them to have gainful employment, improve our infrastructure and welcome businesses that want to come in.”

Bucklew said she was honored voters expressed their confidence in her.

“I just feel honored that the people re-elected me, and that shows me that they trust me and what I do,” Bucklew said.

Upshur County Clerk Carol Smith said a combination of possible absentee-by-mail ballots postmarked by June 9, early voting provisional ballots and absentee-by-mail provisional ballots will resolve the tie between Sines and Rylands. Votes will be canvassed beginning at 9 a.m. Monday, June 15, when Upshur County Commissioners determine which ballots can be counted and which cannot.

“We actually had several early voting and absentee provisional ballots, which we don’t generally have,” Smith said, estimating there were also seven provisional ballots cast on Election Day.

If provisional or postmarked ballots don’t point to a clear a winner, Smith said it’s likely city officials will turn to the city charter for guidance.

Other contenders for council included: Scott Preston (380 votes), Shauna Jones (354 votes), Steve Oldaker (243 votes), Matthew Kerner (236 votes), Freddy Suder (164 votes) and Rick Edwards (96 votes).

At the state level, incumbent Del. Carl ‘Robbie’ Martin (1,563 votes) edged primary challengers Gary Connell (1,030 votes) and Charlene ‘Shaffer’ Dean (686 votes).

“I feel relieved, and I’m so glad we finally have this over with,” Martin said after the last precinct came in. “It’s been longer than the normal election cycle.”

Martin said he hopes to continue supporting senior citizens and businesses.

“I just want to continue on what we’ve accomplished so far, eliminating the Social Security income tax for seniors was an awesome thing, and I want to continue to support our seniors and businesses, continue to support economic growth and just embody conservative values,” he said. “I think we’ve done a great job, and there’s so much more to do.”

In Upshur County, for the 46th District seat in the House of Delegates, Adam Burkhammer racked up 261 votes to Dylan King’s 117 and Steve Moneypenny’s 48. Meanwhile, Robert L. Karnes (2,257 votes) beat John ‘J.R.’ Pitsenbarger (1,773 votes) in Upshur.

At the county level, the following candidates won uncontested primary races:

  • Terry B. Cutright, county commissioner – 3,756 votes
  • Bryan S. Hinkle, prosecuting attorney – 3,540 votes
  • Virgil D. Miller, sheriff – 3,844 votes
  • Dustin ‘Dusty’ Zickefoose, assessor – 3,771 votes
  • Dale P. Bennett, surveyor – 3,646 votes

Overall, Upshur County had a 45.5 percent voter turnout, according to County Clerk Carol Smith, who said Election Day passed with no major mishaps.

“We had a few hiccups here and there, but overall, everything was smooth,” Smith said. “We had a few little issues, and we always do, but nothing we couldn’t handle.”

“We tried to troubleshoot everything we could and just be prepared for about anything, and we were,” she added. “The poll workers told me that the voters, for the most part, willingly took the gloves and wore the gloves and wore their masks, and it was a good for everyone, I think.”

Smith explained that the large number of absentee-by-mail ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic – more than 3,000 as of Friday – were processed beginning on the first day of the early voting period as they trickled into the county clerk’s office.

“The law allows us to start processing those during early voting, so we started processing them to first day of early voting and we were processing them as we were getting them,” Smith explained.

Smith thanked her staff, poll workers and the county commissioners for their cooperation.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank my office staff,” she said. “They’ve done a great job; they’ve been in the trenches with me getting things done. I want to thank the poll workers who took the time to come out and do this amidst all the crazy stuff that’s going on, and I greatly appreciate that. I want to thank the county commission for being supportive. Whatever I needed, they said, ‘do what you need to do.’ I thank the voters for coming out and voting.”

Tammy Jo Samples and Pat Long were the top vote-getters in the non-partisan Upshur County Board of Education race; stay tuned to My Buckhannon for more details.

Click here for Upshur County Election night results.

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