By Kim West
Mark Yarbrough sat on a sofa with a handful of towels, his bright red polo shirt soaked after his supporters doused him with an ice bath Tuesday night at his campaign headquarters at the Center for Lifelong Learning in downtown Athens.
Yarbrough, 51, unofficially defeated incumbent Stanley Menefee, 69, in the Republican primary for Limestone County Commission chairman.
“I’m so appreciative to the people of Limestone County, I’m so appreciative of (my supporters) that worked so hard to make this happen,” Yarbough said. “It was a group effort, it was a compilation of all the people (at campaign headquarters) and all the people who has left, that worked so hard to reach this goal.
When asked what spurred him to leave the private sector to run for a four-year term as chairman, Yarbrough said county residents desired more accountability.
“We won because of our message about fiscal irresponsibility. We’re going to bring more fiscal accountability, more accountability period, back to Limestone County,” he said. “This resonated with people. Everywhere we went, that’s all what people talked about. Out-of-control spending, that’s the number one issue.”
Unless a write-in candidate receives enough votes in the Nov. 4 general election, Yarbrough will become the county’s top official. With 25 of 26 boxes reporting, Yarbrough totaled 4,991 votes, or 52.9 percent. Menefee got 4,450, or 47.13. Election officials said the only remaining box is for provisional ballots.
“There’s no Democratic opposition but we’ll still stay in a lesser campaign mode until November,” he said.
Yarbrough won 16 of the 25 boxes finalized Tuesday night, including 428 votes cast at the Owens Senior Center and 422 at Isom’s Chapel United Methodist Church.
Menefee captured nine boxes, highlighted by 498 votes at Isom’s Chapel UMC and 414 at Lindsay Lane Baptist Church.
“As far as I know, Mark won, and the people have spoken. It’s been a great term, the best term I’ve ever served,” Menefee said at the Limestone County Event Center, the county’s election headquarters. “The only thing I can say is we landed five different projects and we’ve brought in 4,000-plus jobs. We have a balanced budget and brought in $8.2 million in revenue for roads. This will be hard to beat.
Yarbrough, an Athens resident, is the owner of All-Power Construction in Athens and has served as chairman of the Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority.
Menefee, who lives in Harvest, previously navigated five county elections. He is in 18th year on the County Commission as either commissioner or chairman.