New mayor for Newton

Newton citizens elected a new mayor Tuesday and for the first time a female will hold the city's top elected office.

"I don't think being a female makes any difference ... I am ready to lead the city," said Newton Mayor Pro Tem Anne Stedman, who succeeds Mayor Robert A. Mullinax. "I have the experience, and I do think it takes that to run a city. I think that my passion for Newton shows."

Among her first goals as mayor is continuing to apply that passion toward Newton's central business district.

"My passion is for downtown Newton," she said during a celebration at her business, Trott House Inn, just blocks from the city's core. "I want to revitalize downtown and see it flourish and grow."

A Newton-native, Stedman received 59.69 percent of votes cast compared to Weaver's 44.53 percent. Stedman's margin of victory was 91 votes, unofficially, and 896 total votes were cast in the mayor's race. Seven write-in votes were cast. Election results will be canvassed and become official by the end of the week.

"I am very, very disappointed," Weaver said. "I had every intention of winning, whether I was the new guy or not. ... Anne has my full support. .She ran a great campaign. The people spoke, and it wasn't in my favor."

As Stedman retains a place in Newton city government, her fellow incumbents seeking re-election join her. In the Newton City Council race, incumbents Tom Rowe received the most votes with 30.9 percent of ballots cast. He received 69 more votes than incumbent Mary Bess Lawing, who garnered 27.83 percent of votes cast. Incumbent Wayne Dellinger was the third vote-getter with 27.09 percent of the vote. The third candidate, Mae Lutz McLean received 292 votes, or 12.6 percent of ballots.

Stedman said she looks forward to working with her fellow council members.

"We have always had a really good council with very thoughtful people on it," she said. "I am looking forward to that."

First appointed to fill Mullinax's unexpired city council term when he was elected mayor, Stedman has since been re-elected and served a total of eight years on Newton City Council.

Now she faces the opportunity to appoint someone to fill her unexpired term for the next two years.
"I have some people that I am considering. There are several people who are looking for that spot," she said, adding that ultimately, "it will be a council decision."

Weaver, too, faces decisions.

"I never had any intention of running just to be the mayor. I wanted to affect my community. I wanted to create jobs," he said. "I feel like a door opened for me this time. I felt like I had a good shot at it, and four years is too far off to say what I will do. If people decide they want me to run again, I will."

If he does seek election again, jobs and improving the city's downtown will continue to be a focus, he said.

"Those are the things I will continue to voice," he said. "I will continue to try to do what I think is important for this community. We need jobs here. ... I am tired of people being unemployed and having their houses foreclosed upon โ€” and some of those have been my friends."

Weaver said he worked Newton polling places "every hour they were open" โ€” about 113 hours, including all of early voting and all day Tuesday.

"I worked my butt off," he said. "I hope the people of Newton see my determination. If they want change, they should come out and vote next time."

Most Newton voters, however, did not vote.

In Newton, 896 voters cast ballots of 7,968 eligible to vote in six precincts included in Tuesday's municipal election. That amounts to a 11.2 percent turnout, unofficially.

"I think it is sad, especially in the local elections," Stedman said. "Those leaders are the ones that most directly affect your everyday lives. People should get out and they should care."

Newton's turnout was greater than the overall countywide turnout. Between early voting and Tuesday's election 3,990 votes were cast county wide โ€” about 8.4 percent of registered voters eligible to vote in the municipal elections.