‘Masterful job,’ Bost shocked by landslide
Two years, ago, Nick Nelson entered the political arena by winning a seat on the Clemmons Village Council by a landslide. He enjoyed another decisive victory last week, but the stakes were higher as he was elected mayor last week by an overwhelming margin over three-time incumbent John Bost.
Nelson claimed 65 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Bost, who has been mayor for the last six years. Obviously, Clemmons voters flocked to the polls to “Pick Nick,” but was he surprised by the lopsided result?
“As for the final outcome and margins, I never really let that be part of my team’s approach,” Nelson stated. “We kept our sights on getting our message into the community. I think a couple of things – I had worked hard in the 2011 campaign to introduce myself to the community and to listen to voters. In this campaign, I tried to build on that process.”
Bost, who publicly announced he wouldn’t seek a fourth term before changing his mind just before the filing deadline, was stunned by the margin. The final tally in favor of Nelson was 1,594 to 855.
“I truly was shocked by the wide gap in percentage votes and was obviously outdone on the ground,” Bost said. “Nick Nelson, his family and friends did a masterful job at campaigning door to door and at the polls. They are to be commended, and I surely wish him well. My attempts at social media and personal calls to carry the campaign was just not as effective as I had figured.”
Bost said that his decision to ultimately seek another term was less about continuing in his role as mayor and more about “seizing upon a moment to formalize a conversation around fiscal policy. To win would have been an honor but to press further the fiscal conversation was perhaps more the objective.
“However, it seems the majority still prefer a no-growth approach that inevitably will raise the tax rate though promised otherwise. Compounding that, those most progressive voters again did not come out in mass or at least left candidates of that ilk in a lurch with only one surviving the election.”
That “one” was Mary Cameron, who finished second behind Mike Rogers as six candidates battled for three spots on the council. This was Cameron’s sixth election and sixth victory as she prepares to start her 21st year on the council.
Rogers, a two-year incumbent who claimed a seat as a write-in candidate as part of the anti-bond sentiment in 2011, led the way with 1,583 votes in his first time on the ballot.
Cameron followed with 1,282 votes, and Bill Lawry, a conservative newcomer, was third with 1,121 votes.
Chuck Houska (919 votes), incumbent Michael Gautreaux (878 votes) and Jack Ingle (806 votes) rounded out the ballot. Houska and Ingle previously served on the council, and Gautreaux was appointed last year to fill the term of the late Chris Jones.
Nelson will have to resign his current position on the council before being sworn in as mayor on Dec. 9 but already is thinking about what’s first on his agenda.
“I have learned that, first and foremost on the minds of the citizens of our community is that they want their representatives to maintain focus on the safety and services for our neighborhoods, as well as traffic congestion issues,” he said. “I can tell you that I got up the morning after the election with a pressing need to get started with phone calls and e-mails. So, it starts now.
“Overall, it will be important to take those ideas, thoughts and turn them into a tangible improvement in quality of life but make certain there are no unnecessary expenditures or undue burdens placed on the citizens with regard to the Comprehensive Plan.”
Nelson said that he and Bost have enjoyed a good working relationship.
“However, I entered the race because we have a sincere difference in approach in how we want to meet the challenges and opportunities in Clemmons’ future,” Nelson said. “I hoped the race would be about that – a competition between ideas and not between personalities.
“I think there are many who got involved in this campaign who have a clear division in approaching the future and sincerely have the best interest of Clemmons at heart. Nothing would satisfy me greater in my first few months of leadership than to work to unify those approaches so that we can move forward to meet our challenges and opportunities, I think Clemmons residents deserve that from their representatives.”
Bost said that his interest in continuing the “conversation” is the result of a third-party fiscal analysis in 2010 that indicated between 2012 and 2018 Clemmons would begin to overspend revenues based on projected growth, deferred infrastructure challenges and services demanded.
“Regardless of continued political pressure to avoid the conversation and the investments soon demanded by out lagging infrastructure, the community will eventually understand that a pay-as-you-go approach is no longer feasible,” Bost said. “Our long-term capital needs, just as predicted, have now exceeded our available fund balance, and operational costs are quickly approaching a point that they too will exceed revenue, thus further eroding our savings.
“The fact that the fund balance appeared to increase during this last term, though mostly due to funds formerly set aside for capital projects, also created an illusion of fiscal health difficult to overcome. We are certainly one of the most frugal communities in North Carolina, but we did not become that way overnight, let alone the last two years.”
Bost added that he was “proud of the conversation that occurred during the election and firmly believe that eventually, the community will come to grips with our fiscal realities so that we can then move forward toward remedies.”
As for his personal future, Bost said that it will be a time of recovery after six years of service and the reprioritization of his family as he had promised them before re-entering the race.
“I remain prayerful and ready to follow my heart and most certainly plan to continue my involvement in the community I have come to love,” he said.
Rogers said that voters of Clemmons came out and “spoke up once again,” but the 2013 election, with his name on the ballot, was different.
“In 2011, they had to write my name on the ballot correctly and then fill in the oval for the vote to count,” he said. “It is very encouraging and shows that our citizens do pay close attention to efforts put forth over the previous two years of safeguarding our community both financially as well as physically.
“In canvassing our neighborhoods, the message was loud and clear, we live in the Village of Clemmons where we feel comfortable and safe. Our citizens do not want cut-through streets that will endanger the safety of our children from increased traffic, increased pollution and diminish our home values. They want a tax cap, a low tax rate, and a council who will stand for the citizens with total disregard for political consequences.”
Cameron didn’t know what to expect in this year’s vote, based on the lingering anti-bond sentiment, but hoped she had history on her side.
“I never count on anything,” she said. “You just never know. I think the election tells me that a large number of people out there who value what I do, value what I’ve done for 20 years, and they respect my judgment.
“I don’t really see that this council is going to be any different from any others. We’re going to have two new people, and they’re going to bring a new dynamic to the council — one we know and one we don’t know who will fill Nick’s seat. I just figure we’re starting all over again.”
Lawry is starting for the first time as a council member in his initial attempt at public office in Clemmons. He said he was inspired by the 2011 election when he helped support the group opposed to the bond referendum. Lawry thinks that played a role in him claiming a spot on the council in this year’s election.
“I think they chose me because of my stand against the mindset that created and endorsed the bond issue two years ago,” he said. “The council, mayor and planning board were out of touch with the electorate and the economy then when they campaigned aggressively for the bonds and the roads they were going to finance. Fortunately for Clemmons, the electorate soundly defeated the bond referendum and replaced all the council incumbents who ran then.”
Lawry originally considered running for mayor before opting to seek a spot on the council because of his support for Nelson.
The remaining business regarding the new mayor and council will be filling the spot vacated by Nelson when he resigns the rest of his two-year term before being sworn in as mayor. It will be the council’s decision to decide who round out the council slate.