O'Kelley wins special City Council election

George O'Kelley
George O'Kelley

George O'Kelley, a local attorney and former Beaufort mayor, will fill the empty Beaufort City Council seat once held by the late Gary Fordham.

O'Kelley, 69, took home 54 percent of the votes in a special election Tuesday to serve out the remainder of Fordham's term, which expires in 2012, according to unofficial election results.

Challengers Ron Petit, 70, and Larry Holman, 64, followed with about 22.4 percent and 22 percent respectively. Petit had 194 votes while Holman has 191, according to unofficials results.

Attempts to reach O'Kelley Tuesday night were unsuccessful.

Mayor Billy Keyserling said City Council members miss Fordham and have "been working with a handicap" since his death in April.

"There's a lot of work to do, and having that fifth member of council on board will be very helpful," Keyserling said.

Getting out the vote proved to be a challenge for candidates.

Of Beaufort's 7,053 registered voters, only 868 cast a ballot Tuesday, according to unofficial results.

Scott Marshall, executive director of the Beaufort County Board of Voter Registration and Elections, called the turnout "atrocious."

"It's always tough to have a strong voter turnout in municipal and local elections," Marshall said. "It becomes even more complicated when you have an election in the summertime with only one (race on the ballot)... . Even with all that, it's still disappointing."

Beaufort's election commission is scheduled to certify the election results Thursday, Marshall said.

Tuesday marked O'Kelley's third election to Beaufort City Council.

He served a partial term in the late 1970s but resigned to become a municipal judge.

Voters again elected O'Kelley to council in 2004. During that four-year term, he served as mayor pro tempore and was briefly acting mayor after Mayor Bill Rauch resigned in July 2008.

O'Kelley did not seek re-election later that year.

After hearing Tuesday's results, Petit said O'Kelley "has done a good job in the past."

"I have every reason to believe he'll do a good job this go around," Petit said. "(Running for council) has been a challenging and rewarding experience. I thoroughly enjoyed it."

Attempts to reach Holman for comment Tuesday night were unsuccessful.


Beaufort council hopefuls spar during candidate forum, July 13, 2011


Beaufort City Councilman Fordham dead at 64, April 23, 2011


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