By Rachel Shirey
HAMPTON — Early voting for Hampton’s new mayor began this week, but no one had cast their vote as of Tuesday.
However, Henry County Elections and Registration Director Janet Shellnutt said the lack of voters is not unusual in the process.
The Elections Office is required to open for early voting 21 days in advance, but Shellnutt said people usually won’t swarm the polls until the last week for an election of this nature.
That’s why the election office is offering up its own facility, 345 Phillips Drive in McDonough, for early voting until March 15.
According to the United States 2012 Census, Hampton has a population of almost 7,000, but Shellnutt said she expects the winning candidate to have as few as 500 votes.
The polls will be open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., and residents who are registered voters in the city of Hampton are eligible to cast their vote.
Voting will begin in Hampton on March 11 at the Historic Hampton Depot, where the polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Election Day is March 19.
Former Mayor R.W. Coley died in October with a year remaining in his term. The position will be up for election in November along with three city council seats.
Chris Moore, 41, ventures into politics for the first time as he runs for a six-month term as mayor.
“I have no desire to be a politician, I just want to be a public servant,” he said.
Moore said he learned about public service from the former mayor.
“Public service is not a spectator’s sport,” he said. “For it to work, you have to get involved.”
Moore said he has ambitions for the city’s economic growth and overall quality of life.
“One of the first things I want to see is all these rent and for-sale signs gone in our buildings,” he said. “We have plenty of buildings that could be used and plenty of people with aspirations. We need to get those people in those buildings.”
Noting the new Hampton High School under construction a few miles away from the historic downtown, he said he is optimistic about the future of the city.
“Lives change here in Hampton by investing in people,” he said. “This could be the new jewel in Henry County and I’ll be really proud to be a part of it.”
Steve Hutchison, 61, has served on the city council for the past five years, but resigned in January to pursue the mayor’s post.
“We have a good-working council right now, and that’s what I want to continue — that great working relationship,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to serve the public. I’ve just been a public servant just about all my life and it’s been great.”
Hutchison said if he is elected mayor, he plans to continue working with the council to improve life in Hampton and propel the city forward.
“A mayor, to me, has to be somebody who loves the citizens and whose office will be open for anybody. We had a great mayor in Mayor Coley and I want to continue that work.”
Hutchison said he has a vision for the city.
“We’re the only city in the county that doesn’t have a senior center,” he said. “I would work with the county to try to get a senior center for the City of Hampton. We also need a grocery store in this part of the county.”
Clayton News Daily reporter Johnny Jackson contributed to this story.