BARTOW – The vote by mail system helped earn W.H. “Billy” Simpson his second term on the Bartow City Commission.
In the municipal election on April 2, Vice Mayor Simpson earned 48.39 percent (798 votes) of the vote to win Seat 3 over challenger Tanya Tucker’s 41.9 percent (691). Running for the 27th consecutive time for a city commission seat, Gerald Cochran got 9.7 percent (160).
Seat 3 was the only one with a race in Bartow.
On Election Day, Tucker won the vote 209-198 over Simpson, with Cochran getting 25 votes. By mail, however, Simpson earned a 600-482 victory over Tucker, with Cochran getting 135 votes.
“The absentees was the key to the whole thing,” Simpson said following the victory.
For some time on Election Night the tally showed Tucker in the lead before the absentees were being counted.
“I was very proud of the outcome,” Tucker said. “I had a small campaign team, not a big budget, and it was close.”
Thinking of herself as the underdog in the race, Tucker said her goal to be part of “the voice and help the city in any way I can,” was accomplished. At only 37 years old, the fifth-generation Bartow native said she will run again.
“I want to congratulate Mr. Simpson on his re-election, but Bartow hasn’t heard the last of me,” she said.
Simpson, 77, is a Summerlin Institute 1959 graduate. He said afterward he believes the voters in Bartow made the choice for experience.
“The premise is a good thing for Bartow,” he said.
Simpson serves as the commission’s representative on the Polk Regional Water Cooperative, of which Bartow is one of the 17 Polk governments. Last week he was picked by his city colleagues to serve another year in that capacity.
He added that, with as important an issue as the water supply, having to choose someone new would put Bartow at a disadvantage.
“If we don’t make this happen by 2035, then we run out of water,” he said.
Cochran, who is no stranger to running for office in Bartow, spent Election Day at the Bartow Civic Center parking lot, chatting with anyone walking by, as he’s done in the past. He suggested that because no one received more than 50 percent of the vote, there should be a run off between the top two.
That won’t happen, though, and on May 6, Simpson will be sworn in to his second three-year term on the city commission. Commissioners are paid $7,298.
The turnout in Bartow for the municipal election include 14.88 percent of possible voters in the city.