There's a new mayor in town.
Lebanon voters elected Bernie Ash to be their next mayor.
Ash currently serves as Wilson County Veteran Services Officer and holds the Ward 4 City Council seat. He is a lifelong resident of Lebanon and a Vietnam Veteran.
Ash and his supporters gathered for an Election Watch party at the Arcade on Tuesday night, when it was declared that he bested incumbent Mayor Philip Craighead. Craighead has been mayor of Lebanon since 2008, and was seeking a third term this election.
Ash spoke with The Wilson Post about his hardest campaign, feelings about the victory and future plans for Lebanon.
Ash is a former Wilson County Commissioner, who has participated now in a total of nine elections. He said in an earlier article that all elections were very clean. However, things heated up when an issue of his residency was addressed last month.
In an open letter, Craighead noted that folks had brought it to his attention that he may reside in a ward separate than that which he represents. Ash responded, saying that he has one home - and that is in Ward 4.
And Ash criticized Craighead's decision to replace the vote of a Lebanon planning commissioner during a recent vote on a proposed hotel near the Legends Drive extension.
On Election night, Ash said it is time to move on. "It is over. Lebanon is going to move forward," he said.
One of the first things he plans to do as mayor is assess the 25 boards, committees and commissions that are in place.
"I don't want to toss everybody out, or anything like that, but I do want to review and make it more fair and representative of all six wards," Ash said.
He also wants to work hand-in-hand with the city council.
"I want the council to be the board of directors and for me to be the chairman of the board. I want their input. I want suggestions," he said. "(In my experience on the council) things would come to council I hadn't seen before and we were ready to vote on it. That's not going to happen. We will investigate every issue on the agenda."
As for his job as Veterans Service Officer, Ash said it is a position he is sad to leave.
"It is a job I love," he said, noting that County Mayor Randall Hutto will appoint someone to the position. "(As Mayor) I will continue to help veterans every chance I get."
With input from City Council he will also select a representative to fill his shoes in Ward 4.
"I hope to ask the people in Ward 4 who want to serve to bring us a 1-page resume, and fill the position with the best person," he said. "There is a lot of good people in Ward 4 who can do that job. I want someone who will represent it fairly, whether they agree with me or not."
Ash was joined by some of his family at Tuesday night's celebration - a son and his grandsons. He said his youngest son was in Florida, calling him every few minutes. His daughter is in California.
"He's been calling me, wanting to know what is going on here," he said. "I haven't talked to my daughter yet, but I know she's excited."
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.