Cost-saving move for municipal elections fails by single vote in New Bern

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Jeff Odham

By Mary Griswold |

NEW BERN – In a narrow 4 to 3 vote Tuesday night, the Board of Aldermen rejected a resolution proposed by Alderman Jeff Odham (who represents Ward 6) that would change the schedule for city elections. Had it been approved, the city would have saved thousands.

In addition to the cost of Hurricane Florence, New Bern is now faced with the expense of a U.S. House District 3 primary election, possible run-off election, and an off-year election to replace Congressman Walter Jones.

Elections are expensive.


Odham’s letter in the March 21 issue of the County Compass did an excellent job of
explaining how the City of New Bern could save money on municipal elections and increase voter turnout at the same time!

New Bern normally holds its municipal elections in October every four years (2013, 2017, 2021, etc.). Alderman Odham proposed holding municipal elections in March of 2020 during federal election primary elections.

This would be a permanent change, meshing New Bern’s municipal election with the four-year Presidential cycle. It would decrease the cost of municipal elections from roughly $36,000 (if there is no runoff) or $55,000 (if there is a runoff) to less than $5,000. What a fantastic idea!

If the elections are held during the primary, any runoff that might be necessary can be held during the general election in November– again at a cost of less than $5,000.

Tuesday night the Board of Aldermen rejected Odham’s resolution. The fly in the ointment was the prospect of Board members serving abbreviated three-year terms – instead of their expected four-year terms. And, four of the seven objected to that!

In casting their no votes, Barbara Best, Bobby Aster, Jamey Harris, and Sabrina Bengel held on to the final year of their current terms, but doing so cost city taxpayers an estimated $30,000 every four years.

I will not be voting for my current Alderman (who voted against the resolution) in the next election.