Mixon, Boyles and, possibly, Ponder secure seats on the Okaloosa County Commission
CRESTVIEW — Political newcomer Paul Mixon handily won the District 1 seat on the Okaloosa County Commission, as did the seasoned two-term veteran Nathan Boyles in the race for the District 3 seat.
And then there was District 5, where Mel Ponder appeared to be the winner with a 149 vote lead and all but about 80 outstanding provisional votes left to be counted. State law triggers a recount when the margin of victory is equal to or less than 0.5% of the total votes cast for a given seat or measure.
"We're cautiously happy and very thankful for where the results are," Ponder said.
Two hours after the polls were closed, and long after Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections had read off the vote counts in 50 of the county's 52 precincts Ponder, the former state Representative, held the slim lead over Destin, the Destin City Councilman who had offered to forego the first year of his commission salary to assist with COVID-19 recovery efforts. Ponder had 13,630 votes to Destin's 13,481. Niceville businessman Rich Johnson was running a distant third with 3,542 votes.
When votes from the last two precincts arrived — one from Blackman where technical difficulties had occurred and a second precinct that had closed and thereby forced all voters to vote by mail — Ponder's lead had been reduced to 149 votes.
Officials primary election results in Okaloosa County will be known by the end of the day Thursday. Unofficially, Ponder defeated Destin by 0.49%. On Thursday, if the margin of victory is equal to or less than 0.5% of the total votes cast, a recount will be performed, likely on Saturday.
The winner must face businessman Wes Fell in November. Fell initially signed on to run for the District 5 seat as a Republican, but during the final week of qualifying opted to seek the position as an independent.
The District 1 race featured an all Republican field and pitted former County Commissioner Wayne Harris against Mixon and businessman James Walker.
With his win Mixon will succeed Commissioner Graham Fountain who announced in May that he would not seek re-election. Mixon was endorsed by Fountain.
Asked how it felt to be Okaloosa County's next District 1 commissioner, Mixon answered, "I guess to sum it up I feel honored.
"To have this opportunity to be able to serve, that's kind of a theme of my life, to be able to serve," the local pastor, businessman and former law enforcement officer said. "The people have spoken, and I get to lead in this way."
District 3 was also a purely Republican affair and Nathan Boyles easily defeated opponent Brad Roehrig to win his third term in office.
When the results were in, Boyles thanked his opponent for getting involved in the political process and for running a clean race.