COVINGTON, Ga. - Covington City Council will see two new faces in the new year as incumbents on both the east and west side were beat out in Tuesday’s municipal election. The Covington News reached out to all of the candidates involved in the election to offer the opportunity for them to provide statements to the voters after the results were announced.
Susie Keck received 61.5 percent of the vote to defeat incumbent Chris Smith. When asked to provide a statement to the voters after the election results were released, Smith said he was sad to have lost the election, but was even sadder for the city of Covington.
“While I'm sad to have lost the election, I'm really sad for Covington,” he said in an emailed statement to The Covington News.
Smith said there was a group in Covington working against him during the election, including people he’s known his entire life. He reported having heard from business owners who were also disappointed with the results.
Smith went on to say he was proud of his time on the Covington City Council and would continue to work for the community.
“I am proud that I was a part of lowering taxes, increasing public safety, and working for you the people of Covington,” he said. “While I may be done with politics in Covington, I will work just as hard to remove these ‘outsiders’ that have, and are trying to take over my town.
Smith thanked Covington for the eight years he had on the council and wished the city the best of luck moving forward.
See Smith’s entire statement to The Covington News in the attached email.
Tuesday evening, shortly after election results were announced, Keck provided a statement to The Covington News.
“I want to thank Chris Smith for running such a nice campaign,” she said. “I look forward to leading Covington into the future. Thank you.”
Since then, she has provided a written comment to The News about the election.
“I would like to thank everyone that voted for me,” she said. “I am so excited by the high turnout and the margin of victory. I plan to hit ground running representing all of the citizens of Covington.
“I look forward to uniting our community and working for a brighter future.”
Chamber of Commerce Chairman Jeff Wagner said his involvement in the recent election had nothing to do with his position with the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.
"My involvement in this election has been as a private citizen, not as a representative of the Chamber of Commerce," he said. "My effort was not to work against any candidate, but to work for our future.
“I was born and raised in Covington and have a genuine love for this community,” he said. “Like many Covington residents, I was inspired by Susie Keck’s vision to represent all the citizens of our town and to promote growth and prosperity.
“The election validates that these beliefs are shared by almost two-thirds of the voters.
“This is not about ‘insiders and outsiders.’ Our future depends on everyone uniting and working together.”
Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce President Ralph Staffins said the chamber of commerce has historically remained neutral during elections.
“The Newton County Chamber appreciates and recognizes Chris Smith’s eight years of service and his part in Covington’s growth,” he said. ”The Newton County Chamber is not, nor ever will be, involved in the election process, and remains neutral regarding candidates.
“We are proud to be part of a community that continues to support our growth and is inclusive of the voices in Covington - new and old - and we feel confident in our election process to determine our community’s voice.”
In other election news, Anthony Henderson will be a new face for the west side as he defeated incumbent candidate Ocie Franklin and Jeffrey Johnson by claiming 57.59 percent of the vote.
"Since I was a kid, I was in that ward, so I didn't think any other candidate knew that ward better than I did," Henderson said. "I would like to congratulate Ocie Franklin, also Jeffrey Johnson for a positive race; everything was clean. I will say, we made a little bit of history here, being 21 (years old) elected, so it's a blessing. I'm ready to give back to the community and to the people."
Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams was reelected without opposition.
Mayor Ronnie Johnston thanked everyone for their participation in the election.
“First and foremost I want to thank the citizens of Covington for exercising their right to vote,” he said. “The turnout for this election was much larger than recent ones and as a citizen it is exciting to see people care about selecting their local leadership.
“I want to sincerely thank Ocie Franklin and Chris Smith for their years of dedicated service to the citizens of Covington. They were instrumental in forwarding Covington as a premier destination to live, work and play and I will always be grateful for their efforts.
“Covington is moving forward and to achieve the greatness we are capable of, we need everyone moving in the same direction. It doesn’t matter which ward you live in; we all live in Covington and we all prosper as a family.
“I would like to welcome Anthony Henderson and Susie Keck to the Council and I believe great things are ahead for all of us.”
Franklin and Johnson did not respond to attempts to contact for comment.