CHESTER - Chester residents voted for change in dramatic fashion Tuesday by unseating a longtime incumbent mayor and two city council incumbents.
The voters' choice of Larry Forsythe as mayor ended Ken Morris' bid to extend his 14 consecutive, and 18 total, years in office by another four.
"I'm very surprised," Forsythe said upon learning the results late Tuesday night. "I'm sort of in shock right now."
Forsythe was the top vote-getter in an unusual five-way race for mayor, beating Morris 192 to 143. Cody Williams came in third with 133 votes, while Cindy Smith and Ed Schmidt received nine and seven votes respectively.
"I worked really hard. I went door-to-door and talked to the people," Forsythe said.
A retiree with 38 years' experience at Weirton Steel, Forsythe said he is committed to carrying out his campaign promises.
"The first thing to do is evaluate the departments, and that's going to take some time. Like I told people, it's something that's not going to happen overnight," he said.
During the campaign, Forsythe, a 45-year resident of Chester, said he also would provide "honest and truthful" responses to residents' questions, cut costs and eliminate "needless" spending, enhance the quality and appearance of the city, and begin a project to pave the city's streets.
Morris, 57, mayor since 2000, could not be reached for comment.
Williams, 36, a postal carrier and veteran, wished Forsythe luck and said, "I'd like to thank my family and all the supporters who came out to the polls and voted in strong numbers."
In the two contested city council races, Ward 1 candidate Bradley Anderson beat incumbent Dennis Murray 58 to 15, and Ward 4 candidate Ed Beaumont beat Brian Handley 66 to 47.
After seeing the results, Murray and Anderson shook hands and hugged. "Thanks for running a clean race," Anderson said.
In the other three council races, incumbents Mike Dotson, John "Woody" Woodruff and Steve Shuman ran unopposed.
Elaine Hyatt received 398 votes in her unopposed run for city clerk. Current City Clerk Sandra Parkins decided not to run for re-election.
Parkins said Tuesday's election results are unofficial until the canvass, which is scheduled for June 16.
Some observers who waited for the results to be posted outside Chester City Building said they thought the vote count was taking longer than usual.
But Parkins said there were no problems, only pollworkers who were new to the process and needed more time. She said an official with the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office was on hand to observe.