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Qualifying in Brookhaven municipal elections starts Tuesday

Qualifying for this year’s municipal elections begins Tuesday and soon we’ll see if anyone else will be running for the city’s top cop job.

Four candidates for police chief threw their hats in the ring in August, announcing their intention to run a good six months before the official qualifying date.

Brookhaven Police Chief Bobby Bell wants to hold on to his badge, but his lieutenant, Kenneth Collins, wants to wear it a while. They’ll have to contend with Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputy Jason Gaskin and Ward 1 Alderman Randy Belcher, who also want the job.

Besides police chief, the ballot will include mayor, aldermen in wards 1 through 6 and alderman-at-large.

There are no Brookhaven School District board member elections this year.

The city clerk position will be missing from the ballot, since a new law requires it to be an appointed position now. “This will be the first year that the mayor and aldermen will appoint the city clerk in July,” Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield said.

Bairfield expects the police chief  and Ward 4 alderman races to be the most contested. Since four candidates have already been campaigning for months for the police chief job, he expects it will be the one to watch. He’s curious to see if others decide to run for that spot as well.

The Ward 4 race has been much talked about since Alderman Shirley Estes announced she wouldn’t be running again.

“We’ve already been hearing stuff about Ward 4 and police chief, so I feel like those two will have several people running,” he said.

Individuals can submit their statement of intent at the Brookhaven City Clerk’s office beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday. The deadline to submit is 5 p.m. March 3.

It’s a $10 fee if an individual is running as a Republican or Democrat, which goes to the party, he said. Those planning to run as independent must gather the signatures of 50 registered voters within the city limits. If the application is for an alderman seat, the signatures must come from the ward in which the candidate lives, he said.

Bairfield urges those running independent to not wait until March 3 to submit applications. The signatures must be verified by his office before the application is valid. “If they turn it in that day, they don’t have time to run out and get signatures,” he said.

The primary election is May 2. If  no one gets 50 percent of the vote plus one, there will be a runoff election, which will be May 16.

If there is a runoff, voters must stick with whatever party they voted in the primary, he said.

The general election is June 6. It will include the party primary winners and any independent candidates.

Bairfield is helping the city with its election, like he did four years ago, because they are using the county’s voting machines instead of paper ballots. Bairfield is providing support by programming the machines and training the poll workers. He’ll also help tally the votes.

With about 7,500 active voters in Brookhaven, using the machines speeds up the process, he said.

“Smaller cities, they usually just use a piece of paper,” he said.

Residents can register to vote in the municipal election up to 30 days prior of the election. That can be done in the Lincoln County Circuit Clerk’s office during business hours, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or at the Brookhaven City Clerk’s office on Saturday, April 1, from 8 a.m. to noon.

Voter IDs can be obtained at the circuit clerk’s office.