Ralph Schoenherr defeats Joe Piggotte Jr. by 4 votes for South Daytona seat, which triggers recount
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SOUTH DAYTONA – A special election to fill a vacant City Council seat tonight ended so close it triggered an automatic recount, with Ralph Schoenherr on top by four votes over Joe Piggotte Jr.
If the Tuesday results hold up, Schoenherr, a former South Daytona public works director, with his 463 votes, will have beaten out Joe Piggotte Jr., who garnered 459 votes.
The election was held to fill the unexpired term of former City Councilman Ron Clifton, who resigned in January after city officials said the FBI is investigating misconduct by a public official. The term expires in 2012.
Turnout was light, said Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall. Only about 12 percent of the more than 7,700 registered voters in South Daytona cast ballots. The margin of victory was 0.43 percent, so small as to require an automatic, machine recall of votes. “We’re going ahead Thursday morning,” McFall said.
The recount will be held 9 a.m. Thursday at South Daytona City Hall, 1672 S. Ridgewood Ave.
Two of the city’s four voting precincts were in the Piggotte Community Center, which was named for Piggotte’s father, a longtime mayor of South Daytona. Schoenherr said voting at the Piggotte Center gave his opponent an advantage.
“That’s a given situation you can’t do anything about,” Schoenherr said.
Piggotte said voting in the Piggotte Community Center was not an advantage.
“I’m sure the Piggotte name carries weight in this town, but my opponent ran a few times and I’m sure his name is well known,” he said.
His father, Joe Piggotte Sr., was mayor of South Daytona from 1988 to 2005. The father died in 2008. This was the first run for public office by the son, who is 54 and an assistant principal at Spruce Creek High School.
“I’ve live in South Daytona 44 years and just want to give back to the community,” Piggotte said. His sister, Julianne Piggotte is a circuit judge in Volusia County.
Schoenherr banked on his own name recognition from previous campaigns, as well as his experience as a public works director in South Daytona for 15 years. He was also public works and development services director in Ponce Inlet.
Schoenherr now works as a consultant to cities. He has lived in South Daytona since 1974.
“I have a lot of municipal experience and I know how various levels of government fit together and I’ve always thought it would be nice to put my experience to work on the Council,” he said.
His goals included maintaining the city’s finances and preserving services such as public safety and public recreation in these difficult economic times.
Before the recent economic recession and decline in the housing market, South Daytona had approved construction of high-rise condos next to the Halifax River.
The properties earmarked for those projects are under-used and not generating much tax revenue for the city, he said.
“We need to get to work on those projects,” Schoenherr said. “This is a perfect opportunity to get this vacant land on the waterfront and do something nice for the city and the residents.”
The slim victory tonight broke a string of three losses for Schoenherr, who was an unsuccessful candidate for South Daytona City Council in 2003, 2005 and 2010.
Should Piggotte pull the upset in the recount. he said one of his goals would be to keep the city’s parks and recreation programs going.
“We have programs for every age here in South Daytona,” he said.
Public safety and extending a U.S. 1 beautification project through South Daytona to improve business activity are also Piggotte’s goals.
“South Daytona is still a little community and I want to keep it that way,” Piggotte said.
Editor's Note: Story submitted by a freelancer for NSBNews.net and VolusiaNews.net.
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