By JOSH NEWTON
Tahlequah’s chief of police lost his re-election bid Tuesday night in a run-off pitting him against the county’s director of community sentencing.
Nate King received 58.11 percent of the vote, or 1,025 ballots, while Chief of Police Clay Mahaney, a 26-year law enforcement veteran, garnered the remaining 41.89 percent with 739 votes.
Results are unofficial until Friday evening.
“The sacrifices made by so many people over the past four months could never be repaid,” King said Tuesday night. “My name may be on the ballot, but this was a group victory, and it was won by the people who supported me.”
King acknowledged his campaign faced “a little bit of mud-slinging” in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s vote, but said his supporters held their heads high.
“We ran a campaign based on my qualifications and the idea of a good foundation and vision for the police department, and in the end, that paid off,” said King. “I look forward to serving not only the men and women of the Tahlequah Police Department, but each and every citizen in Tahlequah. We will work tirelessly to ensure that Tahlequah is the safest place it can be.”
King said he still believes his top priority upon taking office must be improving morale inside the ranks of the TDP.
“I think morale is a huge, huge issue in the police department right now, so goal No. 1 is going to be to improve morale, because until we get morale at an acceptable level, it’s hard to know what other needs we have, because morale directly affects production,” he said.
He’ll also have about 10 days, after being sworn in as chief, to look over the department’s budget and make any adjustments to what’s already been prepared for the next fiscal year.
The Fraternal Order of Police and city of Tahlequah are also in the midst of contract negotiations, King said.
“I plan on working with the FOP to better our department. I consider them an ally, because the FOP is made up of the officers of the TPD, and we’re all out for the same thing,” he said.
King also sees a need to make synthetic marijuana a focus of TDP resources. He said he’s met with drug task force investigators from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, District 27 District Attorney’s Office, and the TPD.
“I think we have a viable plan for enforcement and look forward to helping implement that and carrying it out to completion,” he said.
Once he’s taken the helm, King also wants to “interject” the members of the TPD “back into the community.”
“We need to be involved in and seen in our neighborhoods,” said King.
He and other TPD officers will be participating in several upcoming events community events.
“I think at both locations, we’ll be able to meet the public and hear about some of their concerns and needs,” said King. “I have said throughout this campaign that I will be approachable throughout my term and be available to the public.”
Until his swear-in on May 6, King will be preparing to leave his job as the community sentencing director.
“I also want to spend some quiet time with my kids, because they’ve suffered a lot through the last four months also,” he said.
After results of Tuesday’s election rolled in, Mahaney thanked those who have supported him throughout the process.
“I’ve enjoyed working the last four years as the chief of police,” said Mahaney. “I’ve been proud to serve the community in that capacity in the past four years, and I appreciate all of the support I got and the friendships I’ve made. Those people won’t be forgotten by me or my wife.”
Mahaney said his plan for the future is to enjoy life. He’ll continue in his role as chief of police through April.
Unofficial results of the run-off election show King won all six of the city’s precincts, as well as early voting, while the majority of absentee ballots cast in the election favored Mahaney.
Voters in the city’s Ward 2 also cast their votes in a run-off election between Charles Carroll and Jonathan Wells.
Carroll received 51.33 percent, or 329 votes, compared to Wells’ 48.67 percent, or 312 votes.
Wells actually bested Carroll in the total votes cast on Tuesday, receiving one more vote than Carroll. But Carroll won absentee and early voting, which pushed him to victory over Wells by 17 votes, unofficial results show.
Carroll on Tuesday said he and Wells had a respectful and friendly relationship throughout the campaign process.
“I don’t have any great agenda,” Carroll said of taking office. “My biggest plans are to get an education as to what this involves. There’s a lot of things and methods and manners I’m not aware of. I realize I’ve got a lot of learning to do, but I feel like I’ll maintain an open ear to the entire town, not just Ward 2.”
King and Carroll will be sworn into office at 10 a.m. Monday, May 6, in the council chambers at city hall, along with Street Commissioner Mike Corn, City Clerk Deb Corn, City Treasurer Lanny Williams and Ward 1 Councilor Diane Weston.