TALLADEGA -- Talladega voters made history Tuesday night.
Following a very close runoff election, Timothy Ragland became the city’s first ever African-American mayor-elect, as well as the city’s youngest mayor-elect in recent memory at 28.
“I am standing on the shoulders of giants,” Ragland said after besting incumbent Mayor Jerry Cooper by only 23 votes, 1,014 to 991.
“(Edythe) Sims was the first African-American elected to the City Council, and I hope that I can live up to the high standards set by her and others that came before me.
“I hope that I will also be the first, but not the last.”
Ragland also thanked all of his supporters, and “all the people that called, texted, offered prayers. I’m overwhelmed. I’m excited to be working with the new council and with the city manager.
“It is a great honor that people thought enough of me when I was running to give me their votes, and now I can’t wait to get to work. I will be an advocate for all our citizens, and I know that there is nothing we cannot overcome together.”
Ragland is a Talladega native, currently employed as a law clerk. He holds an associate degree from Marion Military Institute, a bachelor’s degree from Auburn University-Montgomery and is working on a law degree from the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law.
The office of mayor of Talladega is largely ceremonial in nature, with no real executive authority. During the campaign, Ragland said he planned to use the high profile of the office to advocate for programs to advance the city, working closely with the manager and council.
Ragland built his margin of victory in Ward 1 and especially in Ward 2 Tuesday night.
In Ward 1, Ragland prevailed over Cooper by 295 to 132, or 69.09 percent to 30.91 percent. But his widest margin by far was in Ward 2, where he carried the day 411 to 72, or 85.09 percent to 14.91 percent. Ragland also carried the absentee ballot total, 56 to 16 for Cooper.
Cooper won the other three wards, but not with enough votes to put him over the top. The most closely fought race was in Ward 3, which Cooper carried 256 to 178, or 58.99 percent to 41.01 percent.
In Ward 4, Cooper won by 267 to 83, and in Ward 5 by 264 to 47. In Wards 2 and 3, there were also City Council races on the ballot, which tend to drive higher turnout.
Incumbent Ward 2 Councilman Jarvis Elston did not run for a third term this year.
Vickey Robinson Hall and Duryea “Dewey” Truss competed in the runoff Tuesday, with Hall carrying the day, 285 to 236, or 54.7 percent to 45.3 percent. The absentee ballots were critical in this race, with Hall winning 75 to only three for Truss.
Hall said she wanted “thank God for opening the door for me, and thank all my constituents, all the people who supported me and encouraged me, all the people who let me put signs in their yards and all the people who helped out outside the polls.
“I’m ready to go to work for my ward and to help get things done for the city, and I want everyone to know that my door is always open. I promise I will be a voice for Ward 2 and that I will always be here for anyone who needs me.”
In the runoff for Ward 3 City Council, Joseph K. Power Jr. defeated incumbent David Street by 258 to 172, or 60 percent to 40 percent.
Power also got seven absentee votes to Street’s two. One absentee voter in Ward 3 voted only for mayor but did not mark a candidate for council.
“I retired 10 years ago next month,” Power said after the totals were announced. “I never dreamed I would be going back to work at this point in my life. But I do want to let people know that I am planning to be a full-time city councilman and that I am not going to have any other job. I would also like to thank everyone who supported me. We couldn’t have done it without you.”
According to City Manager Beth Cheeks, there was only one provisional ballot, which was an absentee. It will not change the outcome of any of Tuesday’s races.
The results of the runoff will be canvassed and certified Oct. 15 at noon at Talladega City Hall.
The winners of Tuesday’s runoff and the winners from the general election in August will be sworn in Nov. 4.
EDITOR'S NOTE: For the record, John Lawrence Taylor was first African American to serve on the Talladega City Council. He served from 1975-1983.