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Single vote keeps Helmly from runoff

POSTED: May 22, 2014 9:31 p.m.

For anyone who thinks one vote can’t make a difference in an election, Beth Helmly begs to differ.

Helmly received 50.12 percent of the vote among the four candidates in Tuesday’s primary for the Effingham County Board of Education’s District 4 seat. With 406 of the 810 votes cast, Helmly avoided a runoff by one vote.

“I needed 405 to win outright and I have 406,” she said with a laugh. “So if somebody says your vote doesn’t count, say, ‘Yes, it does.’”

Ben Johnson, who looked headed for a runoff with Helmly as initial poll numbers were reported, finished second with 192 votes for 23.7 percent. Amanda Phillips came in third with 145 votes, followed by Faith Jaudon with 66.

Nine ballots from Tuesday — provisional ballots, given to voters whose eligibility to vote is in question — have not yet been counted. Verification of which ballots will count is expected Friday, according to elections supervisor Olivia Morgan.

However, Helmly does not expect any change in the results. She said she was told that “none of the provisional ballots will impact” the District 4 race.

“While the election has not been certified, the impression I have is that the votes that are there will stand as is,” Helmly said.

Helmly’s four-year term will begin in January, but she will take office prior to that. The school board will appoint her to complete the term of Mose Mock, who stepped down from the District 4 seat earlier this year.

The board of education will vote at its June 4 meeting to appoint Helmly to finish Mock’s term, Superintendent Randy Shearouse said. The meeting minutes then must be sent to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who will grant permission for Helmly to receive the oath of office — potentially at the June 19 meeting.

“Provided we get the confirmation (from the state) back in time, she will be sworn in at the second meeting in June,” Shearouse said.

With four candidates running, many in the community — including Helmly — expected the race to head to a July 22 runoff. She said she was “glad to say (she) was wrong” to expect that one candidate couldn’t win the seat in the primary.

As the final results were reported, Helmly said her initial reaction was surprise. That was followed by relief that she wouldn’t have to face two more months of campaigning, in the summer heat.

“The great thing about knocking on doors this time of year is it’s a gorgeous afternoon, people are out in yards, and it was nice,” Helmly said. “But knocking on doors the middle of July, that was going to be some hard work. So I’m thankful that enough people came out to support me that I won’t have to worry about that.”

During the campaign, Helmly touted her more than 30 years’ experience as an educator. An Effingham County native, Helmly was a teacher, an assistant principal and the principal of Ebenezer and Effingham County middle schools.

“I would hope that (voters) looked at my credentials,” she said. “I would hope that people looked at that and said, she’s been in the trenches, she’s been in those types of positions that she has a good grasp of how the system operates and therefore will be able to make some good decisions when presented with the various things that come before the board.”

Helmly said one of her top priorities on the school board will be to ensure the school system spends its money most effectively.

“I do think that the schools need the money first,” she said. “The people in the classroom are who’s doing the jobs. Their needs should be met, and then we need to do whatever is necessary to keep the system running.

“You’ve got to pay the electric bill, I understand that,” Helmly continued. “But I do believe that the classroom teachers’ needs, and what it takes at that school to keep that school operational, that’s our bread and butter.”

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