WINTER HAVEN – J.P. Powell’s hiatus away from the City Commission will last just two years.
Powell, 60, defeated Mayor Steven Hunnicutt during Tuesday night’s runoff for City Commission Seat 5. Powell received 500 more votes than the incumbent with 1,547 votes, or 60 percent, to Hunnicutt’s 1,047, or 40 percent.
“Words can’t describe it, but the first one that comes to my mind is gratitude,” Powell said. “I thank all the people who supported us.”
Powell, who has vowed to be a voice of the people, served on the commission from 2007 until 2015 when he lost by just 20 votes to William Twyford in a runoff election. He was glad history didn’t repeat itself.
“From the beginning, we were nervous,” Powell said. “Politics is crazy. I had people going off, knocking on doors. They were tremendous.”
The two men advanced to Tuesday’s runoff by being the top two vote-getters during the Nov. 7 election. That night, Hunnicutt, 55, held a 145-vote edge over Powell, receiving 36 percent of the vote to Powell’s 31 percent.
James Hogan and JoNathan “Joey” Hilliard were eliminated by each receiving less than 17 percent of the vote. Because no one received greater than 50 percent of the vote, the runoff was necessary.
“James Hogan, Steven Hunnicutt and Joey Hillard are all fine gentlemen,” Powell said. “Having Joey Hilliard and James Hogan’s support, I think, played a big part.”
Tuesday’s runoff had a turnout of just less than 10 percent. Hunnicutt called Powell to congratulate him on the victory.
“It’s an election, and J.P. won,” Hunnicutt said. “He worked hard. I served eight years honorably, and not being from here, I was blessed the people elected me to represent them. I can’t be mad at anything.”
Hunnicutt said it’s too soon to rule out running again in the future.
“It was truly an honor to serve,” the mayor said. “The lord blessed me with a great family and wonderful grandkids. I don’t know what the future holds. It would be so nice to have people turn out to want to serve.”
Powell will be sworn in during the Jan. 8 City Commission meeting. He will serve a four-year term and make $8,912 per year. A newly approved charter amendment limits newly elected commissioners to three terms.
Mike Ferguson can be reached atMike.Ferguson@directgates.com or 863-401-6981. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.