Staunton voters pull lever for change

Story by Chris Graham

The conventional wisdom is that Staunton voters voted Ray Ergenbright and Elnora Hazlett out of the offices of the commissioner of revenue and treasurer, respectively, because they decided that they’d had enough with issues like the failure to get a new revenue-management software system operational and the effort of Hazlett as treasurer to sue the city over a political move to transfer oversight of key financial duties from her office and wanted a change.

But one of the two people elected to lead the Queen City in a new direction isn’t so sure that the dynamic that everybody assumes to have been at play actually was.

“When I went around door to door, I told people, ‘Here’s who I am. Here are the qualifications that I have to be your treasurer.’ That’s what I told them. No promises. There were very few discussions, and only if people brought it up, about anything going on downtown. So they either knew about them already, or they liked what they heard what I had to say about my qualifications,” treasurer-elect Rick Johnson told The Augusta Free Press.

Johnson upset Hazlett, a four-term incumbent, by 41 votes in a three-way race that included another challenger to Hazlett, Dolores Duncan.

Johnson polled 2,637 votes, or 40.57 percent of the total, to Hazlett’s 2,596 votes, or 39.94 percent. Duncan came in third with 1,264 votes, or 19.45 percent.

Ragon’s win in her race with Ergenbright was of a resounding quality – she received 3,704 votes, or 56.60 percent of the total, to Ergenbright’s 2,681 votes, or 40.97 percent.

That could be why she sees Tuesday’s election results differently from the way Johnson sees them.

“They felt like it was time for a change, they wanted a choice, they read about, they talked about it, they thought about it, and they made the decision. It’s fairly obvious that it is time for a change,” Ragon told the AFP on Election Night.

“It’s been spoken loud and clear. I spoke plainly to the voters. I told them, look, I’m not a politician. I want to roll up my sleeves, I want to get in there, I want to work hard. I’ve got good relationships with these people. I’ve got the skills that are necessary. And I can do the job,” Ragon said.

Ergenbright also sounded Tuesday night like he had heard the message from the voters as loudly and clearly as Ragon.

“I will do my best to make it as smooth a transition as possible and try to make sure that the software system is fully implemented,” Ergenbright told the AFP.

“I’ll do whatever I can to make sure that things work. I’m certainly disappointed, but the voters have decided that’s what they want. I will not second-guess their decision,” Ergenbrigh said.

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