The residents of Prichard have whittled a list of five mayoral candidates down to only two, with polls showing incumbent Mayor Troy Ephriam trailing former Police Chief Jimmie Gardner heading into a runoff scheduled for Oct. 4.After votes at all five voting precincts were counted, Ephriam was behind Gardner by 242 votes. With 1,503 total votes, Gardner took three of five precincts, while Ephriam’s 1,261 votes were only enough to claim two.
In third place, former mayor Ron Davis brought in 295 votes, followed by Mike Sellers and Charles Harden with 257 and 204 votes, respectively.
Because neither candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote (1,675 votes), Ephriam will be defending his mayoral seat again on Oct. 4 along with District 4 Prichard City Councilor George McCall.
McCall took home 296 votes, and though his opponent Samantha Richardson only garnered 173, McCall was just under 50 votes shy of preventing a runoff election for his seat.
All of his fellow incumbent council members managed to fend off their challengers this evening — with Lorenzo Martin, Severia Campbell-Morris, Derrick “DI” Griffin and Ossia Edwards securing their seats for another term.
Lagniappe reached out to Ephriam about the election results and the runoff election but has yet to receive a response. Gardner, however, said the results on Tuesday evening “spoke loud and clearly” for the citizens of Prichard.“Mr. Ephrim is an incumbent, and you see what the numbers reflect,” Gardner said. “They’re feeling the same things I’ve been sharing — they just don’t feel safe as it relates to public safety.”
Gardner served as police chief until he was terminated by Ephriam after his election in 2012. Ephriam has brought in a slew of interim chiefs since including one, Mike Rowland, who the city council ultimately refused to confirm.
In his recent election, Gardner has made public safety a top priority and said he plans to carry that mentality with him into the runoff. According to Gardner, Prichard continues to face significant problems with its infrastructure. However, he said solutions to that and other issues can’t come until the public feels safe.
“The fact is, if we don’t fix public safety, we’re going to have a problem with everything else, he said. “There’s a litany of other things that are going on, but public safety has got to be foremost.”
According to Gardner, the city can address public safety by adding more police officers — he claims city employs just 20 now — and by improving the salaries of Prichard’s current officers.
“The mayor has spoken about his progress in the city, but our streets are in disarray and our sewer and drainage system is almost non-functional, and people recognize that,” Gardner said. “Even though the mayor has shared those thoughts, he’s been limited in actually bringing that progress.”
Any comments from Ephriam will be added to this report once they are received.