At their meeting Tuesday, May 9, the Orange City Council swore in two new members who are taking over the council seats for Districts 2 and 4.
Tommy Ferguson unseated District 2 incumbent Cullin Smith with the final vote tally standing at 353 to 224. Mary McKenna overtook incumbent Annette Pernell in a close race, winning by four votes with a tally of 148 to 144. At-large Councilman Bill Mello ran unopposed and joined the two newcomers at the swearing in Tuesday. A total of 882 ballots were cast.
The switch from old to new occurred mid-meeting after the canvassed votes were confirmed by council members Theresa Beauchamp, District 1 and Mayor Pro Tem, and Charles Guillory, At-Large representative. Once complete, the swearing-in ceremony began and each of the elected took their oaths of office. Then, the old members stepped down and removed their nameplates as the new members took their seats complete with new nameplates. As she stepped down, Pernell embraced her replacement and said, “Work hard. Do it for the people.”
During council reports near the end of the meeting, Ferguson addressed the council and meeting attendees to express appreciation for the opportunity afforded him by winning the election.
“I first would like to thank you all, thank my family, my supporters, the citizens of Orange and District 2 for your support,” Ferguson said.
“I hope to serve the city well,” McKenna said during her comments. “I hope to do anything we can do to help the city grow.”
McKenna serves as board president of the Orange Housing Authority.
Council member District 3 Essie Bellfield said the turnout for the recent elections was “a disgrace” and had stern words for those who failed to exercise their right to vote: “Get up off your rusty dusties and vote.”
In other matters, concerned citizens approached the podium regarding notices they received last month stating there was a problem with the city’s water in December 2012. Henry Lowe of Orange asked if there was a faster way to let citizens know their water is contaminated and about boil water notifications.
“Is our drinking water safe to drink?” Lowe asked.
City Manager Sean Oubre said the water was safe and the notices received were due to a “managerial issue” because the city failed to process the required number of water test samples by the end of last year.
“The issue is not the quality of water,” Oubre asserted.