Tahlequah’s current police chief and the director of Cherokee County Community Sentencing will square off April 2 in a runoff for the role of the town’s top cop.
Clay Mahaney, the current chief, and Nate King emerged from a group of four to force the runoff.
King took 753 votes (37.22 percent) to Mahaney’s 658 votes (32.52 percent.) Former police chief Stephen Farmer (459 votes, 22.69 percent) and Charley Batt (153 votes, 7.56 percent) fell short.
“I’m honored so many people came out in a cold, rainy day,” King said. “I’m honored to take in the most votes. My friends, family and supporters, and their dedication made it possible. Their hard work is moving, something I could never thank them enough for.”
Mahaney, who’s been chief since 2009, said he went into Tuesday night’s election assuming he and King would be close.
“I didn’t plan on there being someone with 50 percent,” Mahaney said. “I thought we would be comparable.”
Mahaney said he’ll be back at work today and will have to balance work and campaigning.
“I feel like I have work to do yet in office,” Mahaney said. “And I hope the public can appreciate that I can’t get to every door I’d like to, or meet every person I’d like to, because I have police work to get right back to. But I appreciate every vote cast, and I appreciate the clean race Farmer and Batt ran. The thing about small towns, when there’s a town our size, a lot of times friends are involved, and in this case, four friends ran. I hope there’s no hard feelings, I’d like to keep my friendship with all of them.”
King said he felt voters made a statement Tuesday that they were looking for a different face in the chief position.
“Nearly 70 percent of the people voted for a change,” King said. “From the get-go, my platform, my main focus is to have a department that’s accountable and has vision. If we’re accountable and have a direction, we can combat anything.”
Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or firstname.lastname@example.org.