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Updated: 04/02/2014 08:00:04AM

Pfeiffer wins city commission race

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As she is present every year, Hettie Whatley (left) serves outside the precinct at the Bartow Civic Center Tuesday during the election for the city commission. She is talking to Woodie Fralic who is coming out after he voted Tuesday morning.


John Spragner (right) talks with Bartow City Commission candidate Gerald Cochran Tuesday in the parking lot of the Bartow Civic Center as people go inside to vote.


Mamie Burdin-Clark (left) sits with her daughter, Trish Pfeiffer, a candidate for the Bartow City Commission, Tuesday outside the precinct at the Bartow Civic Center. Pfeiffer was prepared Tuesday to spend the day there as she had a table packed with goodies.


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It wasn’t even a horse race. Trish Pfeiffer, who had been the presumptive leading candidate since she announced her candidacy, ably showed she was the people’s choice, winning in lopsided fashion over her main opponent, Joe DeLegge, by a vote of 851 to 501. A total of 1,611 votes (both precinct and absentee).

DeLegge, who was not able to overcome the baggage of his past tenure as Bartow’s city manager, as well as that of his time as Dundee’s assistant town manager — both positions marked with tumult — was only able to muster 31.10 percent of votes cast to Pfeiffer’s 52.82 percent.

Dark horse candidates Gerald J. Cochran mustered 159 votes (9.87 percent), with political newcomer James. L. Slaughter garnering 100 votes (6.21 percent).

The voter turnout was low, in the 13-to-15 percent range, said Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards, in comparison to the voter turnout in Polk City (37 percent) and 30 percent in Davenport.

At first, none of the candidates were present at the Supervisor of Elections office to see the results, but that quickly changed, with Cochran the first to arrive at approximately 7:10 p.m., 10 minutes after the polls officially closed. He was followed in short order by Slaughter and then Pfeiffer. DeLegge did not appear.

Following posting of the precinct votes, Slaughter was not ready to concede when said votes were turned in to be verified; he garnered 45 votes.

“I know I got a lot of absentee ballots,” said Slaughter. In the end, he gained only 55 additional votes. However, he said he was not deterred. If anything, running for political office whetted the former military veteran’s desire to serve. “I’m thinking about it. I’m retiring in January, so I’ll be free to attend commissioner meetings.”

Slaughter will be retiring from Mosaic after 31 years as an employee.

For his part, Cochran was not dismayed by his vote tally. With a smile and a twinkle in his eye he let it be known this would be far from his last effort.

“I’ll be running again, you bet,” Cochran said.

When Pfeiffer first saw the precinct votes (347 for 55.25 percent), she was happy, but she “hedged her bet.” She said that when her predecessor, Wayne Lewis, had once run that he had won the precinct vote but had lost the absentee ballot drive.

Yet when it was official that Pfeiffer was the winner, it appeared as if she struggled to maintain composure. After a long day at the Bartow Civic Center, where voting took place, Pfeiffer, whose face was red from being exposed to the sun, was momentarily befuddled. She had to turn to Lewis to ask what seat it was she would soon be occupying. Lewis, too, was momentarily at a loss and had to ask whether his was the at large Seat 4; it was.

Once she gathered her wits, Pfeiffer told the news media that one of her first priorities will be to look into the pay study for city employees.

“That’s definitely on the front burner,” said Pfeiffer, who then added that City Manager George A. Long had done a good job but that city employees had expressed to her growing impatience.

Joe DeLegge did not appear at the Supervisor of Elections office, nor did he return a phone call by 8:45 p.m. — 15 minutes before this newspaper’s deadline — seeking comment on his failed effort to become city commissioner.

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