Unofficial results reveal Richard Beneville as Nome’s new mayor

City Manager Tom Moran oversees ballot counting after the polls closed. (Photo by Emily Russell, KNOM - Nome)
City Manager Tom Moran oversees ballot counting after the polls closed. (Photo by Emily Russell, KNOM – Nome)

With the polls closed and preliminary results in, it looks like Nome will be saying “Hello Central” to a new mayor. With 352 votes for Richard Beneville and 229 for Denise Michels, Beneville will replace Michels, who has held the job since 2003.

So how does it feel to be Nome’s new mayor? Over the phone, Beneville, who was out of town and hadn’t heard the results yet, was surprised. “Oh, wow,” he exclaimed upon hearing the news. “Well, that’s very heartening. I’m very happy.”

Beneville admitted that he was somewhat speechless, which, he said, doesn’t happen very often. While most associate him with his outspoken nature and his frequent use of his coined catch phrase, “Hello Central,” Beneville has been part of the Nome community for decades, as a recent retiree from the community schools program and a longtime operator of a local tour company.

Local ballot caster Valerie Fuller says Beneville’s commitment to Nome shines through in his work.

“I’ve had some experience working with him in the community and really like his involvement … and the passion he has for the community,” Fuller said.

Along with electing a new mayor, both the City Council and the school board will see some fresh faces after yesterday’s election. For Seat C on Nome’s City Council, Lew Tobin defeated Randy Pomeranz, who held the seat for several years. Nancy Mendenhall defeated John Tidwell for Seat C on the school board, replacing outgoing president Betsy Brennan. Keith Conger, who ran unopposed, will fill Seat D on the school board.

Pat Knodel and David Barron, both of whom ran unopposed, will remain on the utility board. In a tight race for the Norton Sound Economic Development Council, unofficial results reveal Patrick Johanson squeezed by current board member and opponent Don Stiles, with 299 to 275 votes.

That wasn’t the only tight race of the night. Chuck Wheeler and Sarah Swartz were challenging current council member Stan Andersen for Seat D on the City Council. While Anderson’s 289 votes are more than Wheeler’s 83 votes and Swartz’s 194 votes combined, 16 additional question ballots must be confirmed by the state before the election is decided. City Manager Tom Moran said they expected this to be a close race and will have to wait for results from the State Office of Elections.

Official results from all the races will be announced at Nome’s City Council chambers this Thursday at noon.

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Emily Russell is the voice of Alaska morning news as Alaska Public Media’s Morning News Host and Producer. Originally from the Adirondacks in upstate New York, Emily moved to Alaska in 2012. She skied her way through three winters in Fairbanks, earning her Master’s degree in Northern Studies from UAF. Emily’s career in radio started in Nome in 2015, reporting for KNOM on everything from subsistence whale harvests to housing shortages in Native villages. She then worked for KCAW in Sitka, finally seeing what all the fuss with Southeast, Alaska was all about. Back on the road system, Emily is looking forward to driving her Subaru around the region to hike, hunt, fish and pick as many berries as possible. When she’s not talking into the mic in the morning, Emily can be found reporting from the peaks above Anchorage to the rivers around Southcentral.