Recount confirms Grayson’s win

The votes changed slightly but the result remained the same following Tuesday's recount of a Vermillion City Council race – the first in more than 20 years.

Challenger John Grayson defeated incumbent Mary Edelen 101-93 for a four-year term as Central Ward alderman. Unless Edelen appeals the outcome, Grayson will take office at the July 6 council meeting.

Grayson won the June 8 election, and Edelen sought a recount following the election canvass. Under South Dakota law governing municipal races, she was entitled to a recount because the election margin fell within five or fewer votes.

Grayson's margin of victory actually widened from the original 101-96 result.

"Three of (Edelen's) ballots didn't contain the official stamp," said City Finance Officer Mike Carlson.

Tuesday's recount took about an hour, and both Grayson and Edelen were present during the process, the finance officer said.
Carlson commended the three-man recount board.

"I want to thank Steve Howe, Joe Edelen and Nick Willan," he said. "They did a great job."

Each candidate designated a representative on the recount board. Mary Edelen chose her husband, Joe, while Grayson chose Willan. Howe, the third member, serves as executive director of the Vermillion Chamber and Development Company.

The recount board hand counted the ballots, looking for the official stamp and the candidate who received the vote, Carlson said.

"Steve (Howe) was instrumental in it," the finance officer said. "Steve, being the independent, showed the ballots to the others (on the recount board). They agreed with and kept a tally sheet."

Carlson said he researched statutes and tried to be as prepared as possible for the recount. He had no precedent to follow in his 21 years with the Vermillion finance office.
Everything went well during the recount, he said.

While he now has the experience under his belt, he's willing to let this be a one-time experience.
"If this doesn't happen again for another 20 years, I'll be happy," he said.

"Vermillion is fortunate to have Mike Carlson as its finance officer. He researched and managed the recount with the highest degree of professionalism," Grayson said. "I am also appreciative for the volunteers who served on the recount board: Nick Willan, my representative; Steve Howe of the Vermillion Chamber and Development Corporation who represented the finance officer; and Joe Edelen who represented his wife Mary.  Everyone played their role with a seriousness of purpose."

Grayson, who has never held public office, decided to become a candidate for city council, he said, because of his affinity for Vermillion.

"I regard it as a tremendous privilege and responsibility. I ran because I subscribe to the ideals of our founding fathers that in our democracy we all have some obligation to step out of our private lives and offer a tenure of public service to our community," he said. "When that time comes to an end, we step out of that public role and return to our private life thus giving someone else a turn.This is my turn to serve in that role."

Edelen said she wasn't surprised at the final results.

"It was probably what I expected," she said. "I wasn't expecting some ballots without the proper stamps, but I wasn't surprised at the outcome."

Edelen said she didn't regret asking for the recount. She saw the possibility of a different outcome, and she wanted to leave no doubts about the final result.

"It was probably a long shot," she said. "It was something that I needed to do, and I was encouraged by friends and family."

Edelen has served in the South Dakota Legislature as well as on the Vermillion City Council. At this point, she doesn't have any immediate plans to run again for an alderman seat.

"I would be running against Jenny French (in a future election)," she said. "She is my friend, and that's not good protocol (to run against a friend)."

Edelen indicated she doesn't plan to appeal the election results. While disappointed she lost, Edelen said she enjoyed and appreciated her time in office.

"It was a wonderful experience to represent the people of the Central Ward on the city council," she said.

Tuesday's recount finalizes the Vermillion City Council, which has seen a number of changes with the recent election.
Jack Powell won election as the new mayor, replacing Dan Christopherson who didn't run for another term. Tom Davies, a former councilman, won Powell's seat in the Northwest Ward.
In the Southeast Ward, Dennis Zimmerman won the seat formerly held by Ray Hofman, who instead chose to run for the Clay County register of deeds. Hofman won the Democratic primary and advances to the November general election.
In the Northeast Ward, incumbent Kent Osborne won re-election for a four-year term.

Staff writer Justin Rust contributed to this report.

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