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Valley Grande voters add new faces

VALLEY GRANDE — Citizens of a city barely 5-years-old showed Tuesday they are already seeking some changes.

Voters put two new faces on the city council with a voter turnout that was the highest in the young city’s history.

Former educator Marie Middlebrooks, running in her first election, took the Place 1 city council seat from incumbent Julie Drinkard.

The win put the cherry on top of what she thought was an overall good race.

“I just feel so excited, and I’m so proud that everybody was supportive of me,” Middlebrooks said. “We had a good race. It was friendly.”

The final tally showed 1,029 voters, up from more than 900 in the city’s first election in 2004.

Valley Grande had almost 1,600 registered voters for this election year.

Mayor Tom Lee will take his second term in office after defeating Terry Hughes 531 to 490.

He said he expected more participation in the election, but wasn’t disappointed with the number of people that cast their votes.

“This is a significant percentage turnout,” Lee said. “This is somewhere in the 60 percentile for this community, which is an excellent way to sample the community as far as what they want to do. And they spoke tonight.”

Lee said the major dividing line was not as much between candidates in each race as it was in ideals.

A bloc of candidates wanted controlled growth, he said, and the other side wanted to limit Valley Grande’s expansion.

“Opposition wanted to shut the city down and not do anything and keep the city as it was 10 or 20 years ago,” Lee said. “You can’t do that. You have to move forward. You have to grow with society, and we’re all for that. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Libby Ezelle retained her seat in Place 3 and said having fresh faces on the council is a positive thing for the city.

“I think that’s good. I think you need some continuity for the experience,” Ezelle said. “But at the same time, it’s also god to get some new, fresh ideas from new people.”