Disputes over election results are somewhat common when the vote is close, and they usually get resolved. But there was no resolution to the disputed mayoral election in the town of Mt. Gilead, N.C.
If you’re not familiar with Mount Gilead, it’s in the Uwarrie Mountains about 60 miles east of Charlotte. Mayor Earl Poplin says, "we are a little community that’s off to the side of things. We’re not on a major route. We’re the home of Jordan Lumber Company. We’re known for having produced 30 odd doctors; a community of now, about a little less than 1,200—has produced more than 30 doctors, so we should be known as a community of doctors."
Poplin is in his ninth year as mayor of Mount Gilead. The problem is, he was only elected to serve eight years. He planned to retire after last year’s election, but as Dan Rather might say, the outcome was “as tight as the rusted lug nuts on a '55 Ford.”
The vote was 178 to 176. And two voters who tried to vote for the runner-up were left off the registration list. They complained to the state Board of Elections, and that left the town without a new mayor.
So the town manager asked Poplin to stay until the outcome was settled.
"I’ve stayed out of a sense of loyalty I think to the community, however, I’ve made it very clear along the way that, I’m ready to step down and the sooner the better. The sooner hasn’t come yet," Poplin says.
It’s been nearly a year. But Poplin, who turns 81 next month, can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This month, the state Board of Election ordered a new election in November.
He says his wife is also looking forward to his retirement, "as she put it recently, she’s tired of going out of town and having me worry about somebody having a flat tire, which as little overstating it. But, she would like for me to be free of the responsibility that I’ve had."
And if this November's election, too, is disputed? Well, Poplin just says he hopes that doesn't happen. He's enthusiastically backing one of the candidates, who also happens to be his next-door neighbor.