Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Oconee voters return Berry to sheriff's office for final term

In the highest-profile race on their local ballots, Oconee County
voters returned Sheriff Scott Berry to office for a seventh four-year
term Tuesday, choosing him over former Oconee County Reserve Deputy
Kevin “Chappy” Hynes by a decisive margin.

Berry and Hynes ran as Republicans, and there were no Democratic
candidates, so Berry will once again assume the sheriff’s office in

Berry, who said Tuesday night that the term he won handily will be
his last as sheriff, earned 4,448 votes in the contest, for 69.6 percent
of the 6,389 ballots cast in the race.

Hynes captured 1,941 votes, or just over 30 percent of the votes tallied in the contest.

“Seven times, Oconee County has selected me as their sheriff, and I appreciate that,” Berry said Tuesday.

Looking forward to his upcoming term in office, he said he wants to
establish a clear career path for deputies and to take care of at least
some of the department’s equipment needs.

Hynes was clearly humbled by the loss, saying Tuesday night, “I just took a whipping. I just got trounced.”

He went on to say that he was particularly concerned about the low
voter turnout for the contest, and the other contests on Oconee County
ballots Tuesday.

“This country is complacent,” he said.

In comments on his loss to Berry, Hynes said that he hoped his
campaign, in which he called for a “fresh model of leadership” in the
sheriff’s office, helped Berry “see some of the shortcomings in the
sheriff’s office.”

Hynes, an ordained minister and a former Marine with law enforcement
experience who serves as chaplain for a number of organizations, and who
earned the endorsement of comedian and author Jeff Foxworthy, could not
say Tuesday whether another political race would be in his future.

“I love this county. I love law enforcement,” Hynes said.

In other Oconee races Tuesday, voters put Mark Thomas in the Post 1
seat on the county commission in a decisive Republican contest.

Thomas, a construction contractor and manager of Hot’s Barbecue, got
4,306 of the 5,959 votes cast in the race, or almost 72.3 percent of the
total ballots, in turning back a challenge from Penny Mills, a former
Gainesville State College dean who has served on the board of Bread for
Life, a local anti-poverty initiative.

Mills got 1,653 votes in the contest, taking 27.7 percent of the ballots cast.

In the Post 4 commission race, which also featured just two
Republicans, incumbent Mark Saxon, a retired U.S. Army sergeant major,
turned back a challenge from Sarah Bell, a retired education and charity

Saxon took 4,390 of the 6,061 votes cast in the race, or 72.4 percent
of the ballots, leaving Bell with 1,671 votes, for 27.6 percent of the
ballots tallied in the race.

In the race for coroner, incumbent Republican Ed G. Carson turned
back GOP challenger Dale Rogers, a local funeral director, claiming
4,433 votes, or 73.5 percent of the ballots cast in the contest.

Rogers earned 1,594 ballots in the 6,027-vote race, to claim 26.5 percent of the vote.

And in the lone school board race on the ballot, for chairman of the
Oconee County Board of Education, incumbent Tom Odom, a Republican,
returned to office with 4,444 of the 6,047 votes in that contest, for
73.5 percent of the ballots cast.

In his winning effort, Odom bested fellow Republican Britt James
Beaver, who garnered 1,603 votes in the contest, or 26.5 percent of

Oconee voters return Berry to sheriff's office for final term
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