With 54.2 percent of the vote, Ron Anders has won the runoff election to be Auburn's next mayor. He will be the city's first new mayor in 20 years and one who will lead a young City Council.
Anders received 4,522 votes to opponent David Hill's 3,822, or 45.8 percent.
Anders, Ward 2 City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem, received applause from residents and city employees gathered at City Hall Tuesday evening when he made an appearance as the results were being tallied.
"I'm very humbled and very proud," Anders told The Villager. "Auburn means a lot to me; it's been my home since I was a baby. I care about this town immensely, and I'm just very proud and humbled that the people of this community thought that I was the one that should lead it for the next four years."
After a divisive mayoral race, Anders said unifying the community will be essential.
"We have to come together," he said. "It's OK if we have different ideas, different beliefs, but we have to understand that making a decisions at the end of the day doesn't mean we're enemies. There are some fundamental differences in how people think Auburn should move toward the future, and I welcome everybody's ideas."
The first hurdle Anders will tackle is educating the new council. Only two are incumbents — Ward 3 Councilwoman Beth Witten and Ward 8 Councilman Tommy Dawson, but, though they have one term each under their belts, they never received an orientation like the one the city is planning this year.
Anders was scheduled to meet with the city manager the day after the runoff election to develop an orientation that will occur before the council is sworn in on Nov. 5.
"We've got about four weeks to get ready, and it's my intent to develop some type of orientation," Anders said. "We've got six new council representatives; they need to understand the basics.
"Let's begin to build some chemistry, and let's begin to get around the table and talk about what Auburn is, how Auburn works."
Anders also said Auburn residents will see changes in their city government during his term.
"You'll start to see some subtle changes about how we function as a government," he said. "It won't be immediate, but I think you'll start to see subtle things, and I want to get those new people as prepared as possible."
One change could be the addition of work sessions each week prior to a City Council meeting. Anders was a proponent of these sessions during his campaign, saying they could help the council be prepared and more aware of issues coming up. He said he would ask the council to weigh in on the scheduling of such work sessions.
The work sessions, along with other actions like live-streaming council meetings, could help tackle the issue of transparency and trust, something Auburn residents have voiced concerns about in recent years.
Of the 44,286 Auburn residents listed on the Lee County registered voters list, 8,362 cast a ballot in the municipal runoff election, including absentee. This makes voter turnout at about 18.8 percent, which is slightly less than turnout in the Aug. 28 election, which had 19.6 percent voter turnout.