HERTFORD – The controversy over whether to allow a wind energy project to move forward in Perquimans County appears to have had a mixed impact on Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners election in the county.
Charles Woodard, a Democrat who has been a vocal opponent of a plan by Apex Clean Energy to build 104 wind turbines in the Bear Swamp area of Perquimans and Chowan counties, won one of three open seats on the Board of Commissioners. Woodard finished second behind top vote-getter Kyle Jones, a Republican incumbent commissioner, garnering 2,239 votes to Jones’ 2,527 votes.
However, Alan Lennon, a Republican who also has been a vocal opponent of the proposed wind farm, finished fourth in the four-candidate race. He garnered 652 votes, finishing behind third-place finisher Joseph Hoffler, a Democrat who collected 1,073 votes. Hoffler’s showing was good enough to claim the third open seat on the commission board.
The issue of whether to grant a Apex a conditional use permit for its wind energy project will be decided by the current board of commissioners on Monday. New commissioners won’t be sworn in until December.
Even so, Woodard pledged to fight any more wind projects in Perquimans.
“I am glad the people decided to support me and show their confidence,” he said.
The Perquimans County native, who has operated Woodard’s Pharmacy for 44 years, said he wants Perquimans County to keep the rural lifestyle it’s long been known for.
Woodard garnered the most votes in four of the county’s seven precincts. His best showing was in Hertford’s two precincts where he collected 513 votes to Jones’ 282. Woodard also got the most votes in Parkville and Belvidere precincts.
With Janice Cole, a Democrat, and Matt Peeler, a Republican, deciding not to seek re-election, the wins by Woodard and Hoffler will give Democrats a four-to-two edge on the county board. The board currently includes three Democrats and three Republicans.
In thanking voters Tuesday night, Jones said he will miss Cole’s leadership. Cole is currently the board’s chairman; Jones is the vice chairman.
“Tonight is a bittersweet because Janice Cole, who really has been a mentor to me, is coming off (the board),” he said.
Jones said he is looking forward to working with Woodard and Hoffler.
“I am proud to have the chance to work with these two new gentlemen and I think we’ll continue the tradition we’ve maintained under Janice’s leadership of working together and making progress for the county,” he said.
Jones piled up a big share of his votes in New Hope, his home precinct. He garnered 740 votes there compared to 354 for Woodard, 209 for Hoffler and 122 for Lennon. Jones also received the most votes in Nicanor and Bethel precincts.
Hoffler, a 76-year-old retired U.S. Air Force Lt. colonel, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Lennon said his loss was “a bit of a disappointment.”
“No one likes to lose. It is what it is,” he said.
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