A gracious Paris congratulated his opponent at the town Board of Commissioners’ regular monthly meeting, which began just 30 minutes after the polls closed.
The election will also put two new faces on the board, as incumbent Commissioner John C. Ray chose not to run for re-election and incumbent Commissioner John A. Staton came in last of the six candidates for three seats.
Re-elected was incumbent Commissioner Eula McNeill, and elected for their first terms were newcomers Murray McKeithan and Edward Henderson.
The unofficial vote tallies show about 40 percent of the town’s 2,469 registered voters went to the polls.
John McNeill captured 70 percent of the vote, 688 votes to Paris’ 278.
“I think the voters spoke tonight,” McNeill said after the board meeting. “I am very pleased with the outcome and appreciative of the votes.”
McNeill, who will be sworn in next month as mayor, said he’s looking forward to working with the new board.
“I wish we could erase the last three or four years but we can’t, and we have problems now ... we need to move forward and get moving in a united direction,” McNeill said.
McNeill, 58, owner of McNeill Jewelers, has served as a commissioner for 34 years. This was his first bid for the mayor’s job.
Before the meeting adjourned, Paris addressed the crowd in the Town Hall meeting room.
“I want to compliment Mr. McNeill on his election as mayor. I just hope he gets the same amount of support during his tenure that I received during my tenure,” Paris said.
“Thank you,” McNeill said.
A moment later, Paris said he wanted to thank Staton for his “diligent work” on the town board.
Speaking to the victors, Paris said, “I don’t envy you ... You have some really tough decisions to make ... Mr. Staton and I will be behind you 100 percent.”
Staton simply said, “Exactly.”
The 69-year-old Paris ends nearly 40 years in town government, the last 30 years as mayor, and says he will bow out of involvement in town affairs.
“Thirty years as mayor. I enjoyed it,’’ said Paris, a retired Army colonel and a professional surveyor. “ I’d like to think I’ve done a lot of good things, and made lives a little better for some.”
Because McNeill is vacating his commissioners’ seat, the board will pick a successor the serve the balance of his two-year term.
In the race for three commissioners seats, incumbent Eula McNeill led with 611 votes, followed by McKeithan with 529, Henderson with 467, David Shook with 408, Wilson Ray with 342 and Staton with 291.
McKeithan, contacted by phone late Tuesday, said he was happy to get the job.
“It was a pretty good showing for the first time running,” he said. “I’m excited and just thrilled that people have the confidence in me to cast their votes for me, and I will be working with the other commissioners to get things back on the right track.”
Shook, who attended Tuesday’s board meeting, said his loss during his first run for public office won’t sour him.
“I guess I didn’t get out and beat the highway enough — didn’t meet enough people,” he said. “It won’t change my outlook on the town. I still love our town. I’ll still be supportive of all the board members, and I think the folks that go in will do a great job.”.
Wilson Ray, also in attendance Tuesday night, said, “I am disappointed because this was my opportunity to pay Red Springs back for being good to me over the years. I’m very proud to be here.”