WEST POINT — On April 6, Rod Bobo stayed at the Clay County Civic Center until well after midnight, waiting for the results of the West Point Democratic Primary, a race he eventually won by 101 votes over Cole Bryan.
If Bobo lost any sleep Tuesday night, it wasn’t from nervous anticipation.
Bobo, 48, an insurance agent and former one-term city selectman, easily outpaced independent challenger Homer Ryland Jr., with 1,644 votes (83 percent) to Ryland’s 330, thus becoming the city’s first Black mayor in its 163-year history.
By 9:30, when all of the votes had been counted, Bobo stood outside the Civic Center conducting TV interviews as a group of about three dozen supporters gathered around him.
“This is an historic moment,” Bobo said. “It’s very emotional for me to be elected as the Black mayor. It showed that, although we have work to do, we’ve made great strides as it relates to race relations. I think the mentality has changed among a lot of people and that’s a great thing.”
Ryland, who is also Black, said despite the loss he was well aware of the significance of Tuesday’s election.
“It is a historic night,” Ryland said. “The city elected its first Black mayor, and although it wasn’t me, I’d like to say that I had a part in that. It was a beautiful time and I enjoyed the ride. I proved that people will leave party lines to vote, given the opportunity. I think that’s what I can take away from this.”
As the only candidate in a contested race Tuesday, Bobo now turns his attention to the work before him when he is sworn into the mayor’s office on July 1.
“From the start of the campaign, I talked about economic development,” Bobo said. “West Point has experienced its share of lumps and bruises as it relates to that. The city is still trying to recover from things that went on in the past,, and I think I have the mindset and wherewithal to work with the correct people to bring back jobs, the right kind of jobs, to our city.”
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]