Mann eager to work after mayoral win

Sep. 11, 2013 @ 05:03 AM

With an eye to the future, a new leader is poised to take the city's helm.

Chet Mann, a local mortgage banker who has served in a variety of positions for business and civic organizations, was selected the Democratic nominee for the city's of Sanford mayoral race, beating out two-term incumbent Cornelia Olive during the municipal primary Tuesday. There were no Republican challengers.

"I am very thrilled," Mann said after the results were reported. "Everyone is very excited, and we are all so pleased. Everyone worked so hard. We had so many volunteers, contributors and friends who are very happy."

With vote tallies in from all of the city's precincts, Mann received 1,201 votes or 66.65 percent, with Olive receiving 601 votes. Provisional ballots will be counted on canvassing day, which is Sept. 17.

"I want to thank Mayor Olive," Mann said. "I want to thank her for her service. She ran a nice campaign, and I very much appreciate the job she has done. I look forward to working with her in the future."

Mann, who is a former Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors chairman and current chairman of the Lee County Education Foundation, said he was led to seek the office because the city needs strong, business-oriented leadership.

During the campaign, Mann held a "listening tour" and said city residents want to move Sanford forward in a positive way. Mann said he could do this by providing quality city services at a reasonable cost, supporting downtown Sanford and Jonesboro and refocusing on economic development.

Mann celebrated his victory at the Steele Pig in downtown Sanford and said it symbolized his idea of rebuilding Sanford in the heart of downtown.

"The plan was to promote Sanford and Jonesboro and revitalize the area," he said. "That is what we are going to do while making sure to bring jobs here. … We are going to get to work on these things tomorrow."

As a former newspaper editor, including stints at The Sanford Herald and other publications, Olive said entering politics was a surprise but a decision she wouldn't change.

"I am disappointed, of course, but change is good," Olive said. "I've spoken to Mr. Mann and congratulated him, and I have high hopes and expectations for a good administration under him."

As an elected official, Olive focused on beautifying the community to improve the quality of life of the city's residents and to help recruit economic development.

Olive was the catalyst for installing neighborhood parks, applying for grants to restore and improve historic neighborhoods and hosting block cleanups.

Both Mann and Olive were strong supporters of the city's $14.5 million in bond referendums, which also passed during the primary.

"Isn't that exciting?" Olive said. "I am so pleased [about their passage]. It looks like we came up with a good plan."

This is the first time that the city's mayor has been chosen in a municipal primary due to newly enacted law by Rep. Mike Stone. Stone submitted House Bill 490, making the Sanford City Council and Lee County Board of Education elections partisan, which passed in late June.

Unless an unaffiliated candidate enters the mayoral race or a strong write-in campaign begins, Mann will be Sanford's next mayor and will be sworn into office on Dec. 3.