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Jones keeps commission seat, Inzetta heads to school board

David Adlerstein
The Apalachicola Times

County Commissioner Ricky Jones fended off a stiff challenge from Pinki Jackel at Tuesday's primary, retaining his District #1 seat by the slim margin of 12 votes,  

Ricky Jones

In addition, newcomer Melonie Inzetta edged Tara Klink, for the District #1 school board.

Jones, who now has secured a second four-year term, amassed 580 votes, or 50.5 percent of the vote, while Jackel collected 568.

With early voting, where she tallied 82 votes to Jones' 73, and in vote by mail, where she had 291 to Jones' 257, Jackel had a 43-vote lead heading into the Tuesday polling.

But Jones managed to secure 250 votes, to her 195, with in-person voting on Tuesday to account for his slim margin.

There won't be an automatic machine recount of the ballots, since the margin would have to be no more than six votes, or less than one-half of 1 percent of the 1,148 votes cast, to trigger that. 

The story among votes in the two precincts, Precinct #7 on St. George Island and Precinct #1 in Eastpoint, was a case of similar percentages, but one the reverse of the other.

On the island, Jackel collected 64 percent of the vote, 353 to 199, and was the clear victor in all three voting categories, particularly with vote by mail, where her 203-vote total nearly doubled Jones' 106.

But in Eastpoint, where there were slightly more votes cast, it was Jones' turn to secure 64 percent of the vote, with his 381 ballots eclipsing Jackel's 215. He also won all three vote categories, particularly on election day voting, where his 173 ballots more than doubled Jackel's 81.

Jones said that following the morning commission meeting, he shuttled back and forth between the two polling places, with the help of friends and family members, "just saying hey to people."

As the day wore on, he began contacting some supporters to make sure they voted before the polls closed at 7 p.m.

"At the end of the day you run a campaign and try to win and that what's we did," he said. "I'm good with that."

Jones was heavily outspent by Jackel, who raised nearly $18,000, more than four times his just over $4,000 total. Billboards featuring her likeness were visible in the Eastpoint landscape, part of an effort to get her message out in the brief time between when she paid the qualifying fee on the last day of qualifying week, and the August 18 Republican primary, which because no one else was in the race, was open to all voters.

Jones said that other than putting a clickable link on his campaign website, "I never solicited one donation for my campaign,

While the campaign was rough-and-tumble, with Jackel critical of what she said were Jones' shortcomings in attending to the district's needs, the newly re-elected commissioner quickly issued a conciliatory video on Facebook, the medium in which the two made the most of in their campaigns.

"I wish her well, I have no animosity towards her," he said. "She has shown the same passion and care for the community as I have. I think ti shows how strong both campaigns were, that they were able to get people to stand behind their messages."

Jones, who is slated in November to become the chairman of the commission for the first time, said one lesson he did learn from the campaign is to make a better effort to communicate with his constituents at each step along the way.

"I've always had a demeanor who keeps my head down and works hard and does what I need to do," he said, noting that he found during the campaign he had to respond to questions being raised by voters as to his achievements in his first term.

"It tried to be purely informational," he said. "I thought 'I know I'm being flagged for this but I've already been working on it.' I realized I haven't been informative enough for county voters.

"We're going to do our best to serve the people, that’s what I got elected to do," Jones said. "I thank everybody for supporting and helping me get reelected."

Inzetta wins solidly in both precincts

In her victory, Inzetta secured 594 votes, or 54.4 percent, to Klink's 499. In doing so, she captured 53 percent of the vote in Eastpoint, where she lives, and 56 percent of the vote on the island. She had majorities in early voting, vote by mail and at the polls on election day.

"I was happy," said Inzetta, 64. "There there were times I was confident, there were times where I questioned whether it was going to happen. I left the polls thinking whatever happens I'd given it my all. That’s all I can do.

"I know I knocked on every door I could find that I could get to," said Inzetta, who was assisted by husband John and other friends, who helped her shuttle her around during the hot summer days.

"I'm grateful for my personal friends who drove me around all throughout summer knocking on doors," she said.

She also congratulated Klink, a teacher at Franklin County Schools and active in the teachers union, for a spirited race.

"She made me work hard," she said. "I could have kicked back and assumed I could win and I couldn’t do that."

Inzetta said she plans to remain as the director of The Nest after-school program. She said her top priority, when she is sworn in in October, is "making certain that we have continuity in our teachers and our administration.

"That’s what we need," she said.

Turnout lackluster, vote by mail smooth

While turnout on the island was strong, at 59 percent, and robust in Eastpoint, at 45 percent, it was nothing to brag about throughout the rest of the county, overall just slightly over 38 percent.

"I was hoping for more but not surprised, since only one district had any races," said Supervisor of Elections Heather Riley, who had announced the results about 10 minutes after the polls closed at 7 p.m.

She said the election had gone smoothly, and that there had been no problems with voting by mail. This, Riley said, was in part due to her office having gone through a complete mail balloting for the school referendum in June, affording them a chance to clean up any bad addresses or other discrepancies that may have arisen then.

Riley said that elections officials had not come across any signatures on votes by mail that did not match the ones on file, and that there had been only one instance in which a voter failed to sign their ballot, as required. In the event that happens in November, voters have up to two days after the election to properly sign their ballots. 

Riley said voters who went to the polls adhered to protocols and most wore masks. "It was a really smooth day," she said.

Melonie Inzetta