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Sunday, June 25, 2017
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home : local news : local news June 25, 2017

News Editor, The Sentinel

Fulton County Republicans maintained their county majorities Tuesday with a county council and commission sweep.

At-large GOP candidates took all three seats up for election. Kathy Easterday garnered 4,983 votes, Barry Hazel 4,268 and political newcomer Phyl Olinger 4,059.

Just 155 votes behind Olinger was Democrat Phyllis Biddinger, with 3,904 votes. Dixie Good, another newcomer, garnered 3,203 votes.

The only other contested county-level race was for District 1 county commissioner. Incumbent Republican Sherry Fulton was opposed by Independent Dale W. Young. Fulton took 71.91 percent of the vote, 5,078 votes to young's 1,984.

Young also was a first-time candidate. Standing in the Fulton County Courthouse hallway watching returns come in he said there's a 60 percent chance he'd run again for county office.

Republicans also reelected their unopposed, incumbent candidates Superior Court Judge Wayne Steele, County Auditor Judy Reed, County Treasurer Lorie Hurst and District 3 Commissioner Roger Rose.

The only Democrat elected to county office was unopposed county coroner Darin Beeker, who is the incumbent.

Democratic Party Chairwoman Sandy Tyler was reelected - to her seat on the Rochester School Board as an unopposed candidate.

Reed watched returns come in at party headquarters and, noting it's her 20th year in county government, spoke of the year ahead. "Budgets are not going to be getting any better."

"This has probably been the most challenging year I've seen," she said. "Working on the 2014 budget, I think, will be another big challenge. Revenues are down."

None of the newly elected county council members are incumbents. But two have governmental experience, at the city level.

Hazel, a one-term county council member, said he doesn't anticipate much difference between county government and city government.

"Other than the area is a lot larger, obviously. Hopefully, more people will give me input so I can do things they need to have done," he said. "Fulton County's a great place now and I hope to make it better."

Kathy Easterday could end up on the county council platform in the seat her mother, Sonja, occupied 13 months ago.

Sonja passed away in October 2011. "She was here in spirit," Easterday said of her mother, fingering Sonja's wedding rings. The best political advice she got from her mother: "Get involved."

Easterday doesn't see much difference between city and county government either. She was a city clerk for about a year. "I think my experience with the city, be it brief, will give me the energy and experience to help move the county forward," she said, noting funding for the two entities is similar, distribution of monies a bit different.

Rose had hoped to be done after his present term. "I've got too much life left in me," he said of the choice to run again.

Good, who helped found the mid-1980s group Supporters Opposed to Pollution and fought Four County Landfill until it was shut down, was OK with not getting elected.

She enjoyed the process. "It was enjoyable and it was just good to get out and talk to people. I think people have a lot of interest in local government," she said.

"And that's a very positive thing. They want people to be active and involved. I think they appreciate talking to the candidates," Good said, noting a five-person race may have gotten more candidates out to campaign.

She would consider running again. "I think everyone should take an active part in government. I'm now a more discriminating voter. I also have a new appreciation for how hard the candidates work."

"You know it just wasn't in the cards. It's really tough to win and be a Democrat anymore," Biddinger said of her close loss.

The former county clerk said that when she first ran for office, in 1993, a Democrat had a chance. Same with her second win, in 1997.

She said she most likely is done with politics, but "who knows."

Olinger was excited. Her race with Biddinger was "down to the wire." I am so excited. This will be such an experience. So challenging for me. I have big shoes to fill.

Hazel, Easterday and Olinger will replace Republicans Jesse Rude, Chris Sailors and Kathy Siders, who did not run for reelection.

Fulton could not be reached for comment. She is in Peru on vacation helping with an archeological dig at Machu Pichu. She is to return home in two weeks.

Her husband Jeff said he texted her the race results.

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