Holmes E. Pyles is the first to admit it: He’s having fun.
“I’ve heard from people I haven’t heard from in years,” he said one recent morning during a chat in the brick home in the Smoke Rise neighborhood of east DeKalb where he lives. “I’m having a hard time returning the calls I’m getting from people I’ve known through the years.”
Long-out-of-touch friends have good reason to call and congratulate the 86-year-old Pyles. When the results of the Nov. 4 election were posted, he’d placed first among the five candidates running for the District 1 seat on the DeKalb County Commission.
On Dec, 2, the first-time candidate faces a runoff with Nancy Jester of Dunwoody, a former member of the DeKalb County school board.
Pyles says he was as surprised as anyone by his finish.
“I was thinking I might be in the running, but I didn’t think I’d be on top,” he said.
Pyles led the five-candidate field in the Nov. 4 race, collecting 9,184 votes, or about 26 percent of 35,206 cast. Jester finished second with 8,617 votes, or about 25 percent, edging out Wendy Butler, who claimed 8,359 votes, or about 24 percent, according to official results posted on the DeKalb County Voter Registration and Election website. The other two candidates in the race, Tom Owens and Larry Danese, respectively collected 4,683 votes, or about 13 percent of the total, and 4,363 votes, or about 12 percent of the total.
Jester wasn’t taken aback by Pyles’ finish. “Nothing in politics surprises me, sad to say,” she said.
The five candidates sought to succeed former Councilwoman Elaine Boyer, who resigned in August, a day before federal prosecutors accused her of misusing county money. She pleaded guilty to federal charges and is scheduled to be sentenced in December.
Pyles ran a minimal campaign. He said he put out no yard signs and had no contributors. “I’ve spent less than $2,000 so far,” he said, although he was the only candidate whose financial disclosure report did not show up in a recent search of the county’s website.
The other candidates filed the required pre-election disclosure forms. Jester reported spending $2,947. Butler spent the most, reporting expenditures of $27,433. Danese listed $3,472 in expenses and Owens $3,712.
He did take part in a couple of candidate forums, where the five seeking the office answered questions, but said he found those discussions limiting. Debate moderators often cut off his answers. “I’m not particularly interested in those debates,” he said. “You don’t have enough time to
For the runoff, he said, he planned to campaign just as he did in the first round. “I think I’ll do the same thing I’ve been doing and just talk to people personally,” he said.
Jester said she, too, planned to continue campaigning as she had during the general election, by hosting public meetings and campaigning door to door. “I’m going to keep doing the things I’ve been doing,” she said.
Pyles said he’s lived in DeKalb County since the 1950s and decided to run for the commission because he didn’t think residents were getting their tax money’s worth from county government.
“I’ve run into the red tape and all the stuff with the county,” he said. “When I moved to DeKalb County, the county picked up your garbage and all that and they included all that in your tax bill. Now you pay a fee. The county has gone into the business of collecting fees and hiring employees…”
When he tried recently to reopen a used car lot on land he had used for a car sales the past, he said, he was told he couldn’t because his property was too small for a car lot under the area’s zoning.
“I think with my experience and all,” he said, “I can point out things that will help the county — if you can get somebody to listen.”
Jester said she listened to the voters. “The folks in District 1 don’t feel they’ve been listened to properly over the years,” she said. “I certainly want to listen to their concerns and to be accessible.”
She said she wanted to address “common sense” issues – fiscal management, competence, improving customer
“DeKalb has the worst of both worlds – we have bloated government and poor service areas,” she said. “It’s not acceptable.”