BETHANY - Four incumbent Bethany Council members will be joined by one new member following the town's election Tuesday.
Voters selected challenger Thom Furbee to join incumbents Helen Moren, Pat Sutherland, Ted Pauls and Gray Williamson in filling five at-large seats on council.
Unofficial totals for the seven candidates for the seats are Furbee, 66 votes; Moren, 65; Sutherland, 64; Pauls, 60; Williamson, 48; incumbent Linda Chivers, 44; and challenger Kerry Shaulis, 26.
The totals are unofficial until ballots are canvassed, which is tentatively set for Friday.
Furbee, a professor and director of media services and classroom technology at Bethany College, said he was pleasantly surprised to have received the most votes in the close race.
Though it was his first bid for an elected office, he noted he's no stranger to Bethany Council, having served on the town's sanitation board for many years and working with two mayors and others in bringing about upgrades to the wastewater treatment system.
"I ran mainly so people would have a choice," Furbee said, adding, "I'm happy and ready to get down to business."
Each of the incumbents expressed appreciation to the voters who re-elected them.
Moren and Sutherland added in their new terms they will work with other town officials to bring improvements, such as removal of dilapidated structures, sidewalk repairs and street paving.
Sutherland, who also is a professor at Bethany College, said he's pleased with the addition of Furbee, saying he "will bring a lot of new ideas and a fresh perspective" to council.
Pauls and Williamson couldn't be reached for comment.
The unofficial totals for Chivers put her just short of re-election. She couldn't be reached for comment on whether she planned to contest the results.
Town Recorder Cindy Hoffman noted it was the second election year in which residents could vote early by mail through a pilot program introduced in a handful of smaller municipalities by the West Virginia Secretary of State's office.
Hoffman said about 19 people cast ballots by mail in 2011 and again this year. It's not a large number, she said, but the program helped to cut election costs by eliminating the need to open a polling place and hire poll workers for the two Saturdays included in the early voting period set for other municipalities.
Hoffman said the mail-in voting option also benefits senior citizens who have difficulty getting to the polls and those who will be away on Election Day.
She said the pilot program was set to end after this year's election and she doesn't know what will become of it in the future.