Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 3, 2004

There will be a change on the Butler County Commission. Jerry Hartin was elected to the Butler County Commission Tuesday night in a close race with current District 1 Commissioner Gary Hanks. Hanks, who had survived the primary and a runoff earlier in the campaign fell in the close race gathering 856 votes to Hartin's 1,002.

Hartin said the election kept him in suspense.

"I was cautiously optimistic," Hartin said. "Things were looking well and people had told me things were going to go well, but I took it with a bit of caution. I always like to see the final totals until I see the final conclusions."

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Hartin said the entire campaign process has helped him grow in many ways and given him the input he needs to step in and represent the people of District 1.

"It was a very positive experience," Hartin said. "It was very nice to meet all the people and get out on the campaign trail. I got to meet a lot of people I have never seen before."

Hartin said while on the campaign trail people were more than willing to let him know of the changes they would like to see.

"There are a lot of people out there who had a lot of issues they wanted me to face and a lot of people who gave me ideas they wanted me to address at a later date," Hartin said.

Hartin said he plans to step directly into his seat and work with the commissioners on existing issues and some new ideas.

"We have got to work toward building a new jail," Hartin said. "There is still a lot of debris on the side of the road that needs to be cleaned up. I look forward to working with the school systems and get funding for the roads that need paving. I would like to put stripes on the roads that need them. There are a number of issues I would like to address later, but those are the ones I would like to start with."

Outgoing Commissioner Gary Hanks only comment was "I guess the Greenville Advocate is glad that dumb and dumber are out."

Regaining his seat to join Hartin on the commission was current District 2 Commissioner Jesse McWilliams. The people of District 2 spoke out in favor of McWilliams giving him a 1,159 to 249 win over challenger Tom Crenshaw.

McWilliams said he is proud to be representing the people of his district and looks forward to getting back to work for them.

"I'd really like to thank the people of District 2 for supporting me," McWilliams said. "I have always run on a platform of economic development, education, schools and keeping the county safe. For four years I have worked very hard to try to live up to all those obligations and I have continued to do that."

McWilliams said it is an honor to serve the fine people of Butler County. He said our citizens are people of commitment and progress and he hopes to help them further the area.

"I can't say enough about the people of this county," McWilliams said. "This election shows that it's not altogether about party, it's about person. I am proud to serve the people of this county. I am fortunate to be in the position I am and I am going to work as hard as I can to show that I care about the people of District 2 and all the people of Butler County."

For Crenshaw the election was still a positive experience. Crenshaw said he would use this election as a learning experience for his future ventures into local politics.

"It was very educational and eye opening," Crenshaw said. "I learned a lot of valuable things and when I run next time things will be done much differently."

Crenshaw thanked those who backed him and said he hoped everyone would take an interest in local politics.

"I was pleased to have a few people out there who supported me and thank the ones who did," Crenshaw said. "Everybody should get a little experience in county government and see how it is run. Get involved. That is the most important thing.

Perhaps the biggest story of the night was the voter turnout. People turned out in record numbers to make their opinions known. Probate Judge Steve Norman said the turnout was more than anyone could have expected.

"It was wild," Norman said. "I don't think anyone expected anywhere near this kind of turnout. I thought it would be bigger than June, but I didn't think it would be this big."

Norman said he hoped this would start a trend for local elections.

"I hope this is something we can look forward to in the future and that the voters will stay interested in politics particularly on the local level," Norman said. "We generated a 60 percent turnout for a presidential election when the president has never been to Butler County."