REDINGTON SHORES — This year’s fiercely fought election race has been decided, with Mayor MaryBeth Henderson winning a new three-year term in a decisive victory over Commissioner Jeff Neal.
The campaign had been contentious, and wrapped up with Neal being suspended from his commission seat with a month left in his term. Neal was ousted by a vote of the commission for “electioneering,” which is prohibited in Town Hall, and “making misleading and untrue statements of a political nature” at a special meeting in February.
Neal had accused Henderson of “causing the resignation, termination or transfer of numerous town employees for political reasons or gain,” and made other similar comments.
Henderson was recused from the vote to suspend Neal. Neal said his constitutional rights were violated by not giving him enough time to prepare a defense.
In a campaign ad, Neal said he decided to run for mayor because he had seen “a disturbing pattern of residents and business people seeing their rights being taken away.”
In her campaign material, Henderson said she was being forced to address “the false and misleading statements from my opponent and his out-of-town supporter.”
Both Neal and Henderson placed full-page ads in the preelection issue of the Beacon, with the headline “Let’s Take Our Town Back” for Neal, and “Setting the Record Straight” for Henderson.
When the polls closed on March 9, Henderson had won a landslide 61 percent of the 1,005 votes cast.
After the election results were announced, Henderson told the Beacon she was “extremely grateful to the residents of our town for their overwhelming support over the past few months.” She said the election was “extremely challenging,” and that she could not have made it through without the encouragement and efforts of her campaign volunteers.
Henderson said the residents gave her a landslide win because “they appreciated my active leadership in our town events as well as my daily involvement at Town Hall in serving the residents.” She felt there was not any particular issue that was a deciding factor, but rather “residents seemed to recognize the accomplishments our town has experienced over the last three years and wanted to see the progress continue.”
Commenting on the suspension of Neal from the commission prior to the election, Henderson said some may think his removal would benefit her campaign. But Henderson claimed the opposite was true, saying the suspension motivated his supporters to “work even harder to rally voters behind him.”
During the upcoming year, Henderson said she plans to focus on “protecting residents from the negative impacts of short-term rentals, developing solutions to future beach renourishment, improving utility undergrounding,” and making Redington Shores “a comfortable and enjoyable place to live.”
Another priority will be “compassion, healing and compromise as we seek to restore the good will that seems to have been impacted” by the election campaign, she said.