By Dawn Krebs
FORT PIERCE -- The process may have taken longer than planned, but the city of Fort Pierce now officially has a new "first" on its books, with the election of Linda Hudson as the first female mayor. She defeated Vince Gaskin after a recount by the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections office.
"I want to thank my family for supporting this effort, and not having access to me as they had previously," Ms. Hudson said. "I also want to thank all my supporters who helped me. There were so many people and I'm so grateful."
In an all-day process on Nov. 14, the votes officially came back in Ms. Hudson's favor. The final results were Ms. Hudson with 6,902 votes or 50.16 percent, to Mr. Gaskin's 6,857 votes or 49.84 percent.
The election itself took longer than planned, however.
The mayor's race was supposed to be decided during the August primary, where the top two out of six candidates were Ms. Hudson and Mr. Gaskin, with Mr. Gaskin receiving more of the overall votes. But because he did not receive more than 50 percent of the votes, the pair was forced to square off in the Nov. 6 election.
In that election, Mr. Gaskin was ahead by five votes. After provisional ballots were counted, his lead increased to 21 votes.
But the number of votes separating them was less than one-half of 1 percent, so a recount was triggered.
The first recount took place on Nov. 11. Early votes from Nov. 1 through Nov. 3 were recounted because of an issue with the memory cards on the voting machines for those days. The results of that count placed Ms. Hudson ahead of Mr. Gaskin by 61 votes.
But that still separated the two by only .44 percent, so another recount of all the votes was done.
"Because the race was close and went out for several recounts, I want to extend a hand of friendship and peace to everyone who voted for my opponent," she said. "The mayor is the mayor of all the neighborhoods in Fort Pierce, and I am going to remember that."
In a previous interview, Ms. Hudson said she was an advocate for a complete and speedy process to public records and is a strong proponent of transparency in government.
"City government should be fair, honest, efficient and open," she said.
She wants to address putting the city on the road to financial health as well as fostering a friendly business climate, something she has been a part of as chairman of the downtown farmer's market.
She is also looking to improve the neighborhoods west of U.S. 1 in Fort Pierce.
"Safe streets and neighborhoods are essential for a prosperous city," she said. "I want to encourage community pride, and work together for the betterment of the neighborhoods."