Rupa Blackwell and Daniel Berry have been elected to serve on the Tullahoma Board of Mayor and Alderman for the next three years.
According to unofficial results Thursday night, Blackwell won her seat by capturing 1,017 total votes in the contest, besting her nearest competitor by 278 votes.
Blackwell, the first elected woman of color in city’s 167-year history, will replace mayor pro-tempore Renee Keene, who opted not to seek another term.
In an extremely tight race, newcomer Daniel Berry was elected to fill the second seat, replacing outgoing alderman Jackie Duncan. Unofficial results show Berry winning the election by just five votes, earning 739 to Duncan’s 734.
Stephen Landers captured 246 votes.
Results will be certified Aug. 15, according to Administrator of Elections Andy Farrar.
Coming off the race, newly elected Blackwell, said she was thrilled by her campaign’s success.
“I feel overwhelmed with gratitude right now,” she said Thursday night. “It feels amazing to have this town trust me enough to vote for me. It means that I am excited to serve them and to work even harder for them now.”
Blackwell added that it feels “amazing” to be the city’s first elected woman of color.
“My parents immigrated here in the ‘70s, and they moved to Tullahoma,” she said. “This town welcomed them with open arms, so to know that I was just elected here, I’m just thankful to be living the American dream.”
Fighting back tears, she said the Tullahoma community has been “loving and caring for me my entire life,” so she was grateful for the opportunity granted to her by the voters of Tullahoma.
Blackwell said she is looking forward to getting to work for the people of Tullahoma by “listening more.”
“A brilliant other alderwoman once told me that the most important thing she learned as being an alderman was to listen to the people,” she said, “so that’s what I’m looking forward to – listening and learning from each and every one of the people of Tullahoma.”
Immediately after learning of his win, Berry was “at a loss for words.”
“I want to thank everyone who supported me,” he said, including all the volunteers who sat at the polls on Thursday and his mother.
On Friday morning, Berry expanded on his comments, saying he was “thankful and blessed” by the experience.
“I feel truly honored to have earned the votes that I did,” he said. “It has been a long past few months getting to this point [and] that wouldn’t have been possible without the support, encouragement, critiques and hard work from everyone involved.”
Similar to Blackwell, Berry said he was ready to hit the ground running and get to work representing the people of Tullahoma.
“This is just the start,” he said Thursday night. “It’s time to roll up our sleeves now and put into action some of the issues that we talked about.”
Berry added Friday morning he was ready to expand the “responsive transparency” that was a “big theme” in his campaign to the rest of the community.
“My first step will be to create a constant feedback loop with residents and businesses in Tullahoma,” he said. “I’ll do this by making sure I am both readily available and approachable.”
Berry has promised to hold bi-weekly meetings in neighborhoods across Tullahoma in order to facilitate “open and honest conversations about what is important” to the community and to “get to know each other as neighbors.”
Berry said he wasn’t overly worried about the five-vote margin between himself and Jackie Duncan.
He said he was “hopeful” the results would not change by the time the results were certified on Aug. 15, “but at this point it is out of my hands.”
Thursday’s municipal election saw a 1,502 votes cast, a year-over-year increase of 4% of registered voters. In 2017, 1,003 votes were cast.
Berry and Blackwell will be sworn in prior to the Aug. 26 meeting of the Tullahoma Board of Mayor and Aldermen, according to Mayor Lane Curlee.
Curlee said he was exciting to see both new aldermen begin their terms.
“I think I get along good with everybody, so I look forward to working with them and trying to make some good things happen in Tullahoma,” he said.