MURPHYSBORO — A new mayor will lead Murphysboro for the first time in 12 years.
Will Stephens unofficially defeated incumbent Ron Williams by more than 200 votes with all nine of the city’s districts reporting Tuesday night. Stephens garnered 58 percent of votes cast.
Stephens said he knew going into the race that unseating Williams would be difficult because of incumbency and Williams’ standing as “a beloved individual in the city of Murphysboro.
Stephens thanked Williams for his 12 years of service.
“He’s governed during some very difficult times,” Stephens said. “He’s not had an easy job, and I’m not going to have an easy job ahead of me, either.
“But I think what you saw in the total was a reflection of what my campaign put forth, and that was the fact that Murphysboro’s had a 20 percent population loss over the last 20 years. It’s seen numbers of businesses close and move out of town, and people are just ready for somebody with a fresh eye to look at these problems.”
Williams said health issues prevented him from campaigning as vigorously as he would have liked, but he did not view the loss as a setback.
“I’m walking away and the city is out of debt and in as good a shape as it’s been in several years,” he said.
Although he was not sure about his future plans, Williams said he would continue public service.
“There’s the option of getting involved with the Apple Festival, the option of getting involved with church,” he said. “I’m not done helping, that’s for sure.”
Stephens is a radio station general manager and former Jackson County Board member. He lost his re-election bid to the board in November.
One of Stephens’ top priorities is fashioning a new comprehensive plan for the city to set “realistic goals” with deadlines. He also campaigned on hiring an economic development coordinator, a goal he admitted would be difficult given the city’s financial standing.
Stephens could be sworn in as early as the May city council meeting.
On Twitter: @DW_Norris_SI
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