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Williams elected Huntington mayor

Nov. 06, 2012 @ 11:32 PM

HUNTINGTON — Steve Williams will move from Huntington City Council into the mayor’s office in January.

With all 40 city precincts reporting in Cabell and Wayne counties Tuesday night, unofficial returns show the Democratic city councilman soundly defeating Republican incumbent Kim Wolfe. Williams had 8,753 votes to Wolfe’s 5,570. Artie “Dino” Battista, an independent candidate, finished with 372 votes.

Williams, who started the night watching returns at his residence and then celebrated with supporters at the Cabell County Courthouse, said his victory shows his campaign message of making Huntington an exceptional city struck a chord with voters.

“It was made clear to me when I met with voters that they expected more out of their local government,” Williams said. “We’re moving in the right direction, but we have to move much faster. The margin of victory tells me the voters saw the leadership I have provided on City Council during the past four years.”

Both Williams and Wolfe cruised to easy victories in their primary races last spring. It marked the first time since Huntington switched back to a strong mayor form of government in 1985 that a mayoral incumbent faced a sitting City Council member or any other city official in the general election.

Wolfe used a “stay the course” campaign platform that focused on successes during his first term such as a falling crime rate, an annual paving program, the demolition of 130 dilapidated structures and staving off bankruptcy through pension reform.

Williams, however, said City Council had as much, if not more, to do with the progress made during the past four years as Wolfe did. The chairman of the council’s Finance Committee, Williams made economic development initiatives that relied on his experience as a former state legislator and investment broker the backbone of his campaign. He has proposed to establish development zones with free Wi-Fi service and tax increment financing districts to attract more businesses to Huntington.

Williams said after learning of his victory that he had a meeting scheduled with Marshall University President Stephen Kopp on Wednesday, Nov. 7, to immediately begin negotiations on those endeavors.

Anne Clayton of Huntington said she voted for Williams because he has a clear vision for moving the city forward.

“He’s going to be a positive role model for the city of Huntington, and we need that,” Clayton said after voting at Meadows Elementary School. “It’s obvious he is a great communicator and has good relationships with the people he will need to work with to get things done. His financial background will help with the city’s budget situation, too.”

Wolfe called Williams about 9:30 p.m. to congratulate him and tell him that his administration will help Williams with the transition to the mayor’s office.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the city’s much better off than it was when I stepped into the office four years ago,” Wolfe said. “Jobs are up, crime’s down, and the city didn’t go into bankruptcy. People told me if I made or tried to make tough decisions that I would be a one-term mayor. I wouldn’t have done anything differently.”

Williams officially takes office Jan. 1. He said he will form a transition team in the next week and plans on working with new and existing City Council members during the next two months to set a game plan.

Williams also said he plans to retain all of Wolfe’s administrative team. He said he met with Police Chief Skip Holbrook, Development and Planning Director Charles Holley and Administration and Finance Director Brandi Jacobs-Jones in the months leading up to the election.