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Bridgeport residents reelect councilman who died nearly a month before the election

Bridgeport Council President Barry Hughes said when Thomas Wayne Crabtree died, it was too late to remove his name from the ballot.

Posted: Aug 26, 2020 10:12 PM
Updated: Aug 26, 2020 10:44 PM

Hovering near the Tennessee border near the river, about 500 people turned out to vote in each of the three races for the Bridgeport City Council.

On Tuesday night, all three of the incumbents held onto their seat for another term. However, distinct among them was the victory for Thomas Wayne Crabtree. 

During Tuesday's municipal election, Thomas Wayne Crabtree won reelection to the District 5 City Council seat. However, Crabtree won the election almost a month after he passed away on August 1. During Tuesday's municipal election, Thomas Wayne Crabtree won reelection to the District 5 City Council seat. However, Crabtree won the election almost a month after he passed away on August 1.

He died almost a month before the ballots were counted. 

"We've had city councilmen who've passed away while in office, but never while we were running for a position," said Barry Hughes, the Bridgeport Council President. Hughes won his election with 304 out of 492 votes.

Hughes served during the eight years that Crabtree was on the council. The two helped work toward projects, like a new outdoor performance venue in downtown, a street resurfacing project along the main stretch of downtown and helping to court the Google Data Center, which is under construction on the outer edge of the city limits.

Hughes said the fact that Crabtree won, even though voters knew he couldn't serve his term, didn't shock him.

"I wouldn't say that I was surprised because he was a very liked person. He had a lot of support," Hughes said.

As a retired electrician at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Widows Creek Fossil Plant, Crabtree did some electrical work around the City of Bridgeport, including at the outdoor stage downtown. He worked at the plant for more than 30 years before he retired.

In addition, Hughes said people also associated Crabtree with his work on the board for the Lena Cagel Public Library. When he passed away in early August, his family said "In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Lena Cagle Public Library.

At this point, Hughes said the mayor and city council will appoint someone to fill the rest of Crabtree's current term as well as the one he won on Tuesday.

He said Crabtree's wife, Aldonna, will likely be appointed to fill the seat.

"She made a comment that if her husband were to win the ticket again that she would like to serve, if given the chance," Hughes said.

A Bridgeport resident who spoke with WAAY 31 off-camera said he thought that after Crabtree died, his name should've been taken off the ballot and that the seat should go to Crabtree's opponent, former councilman Leon Dave.

Dave lost 271-215 in Tuesday's election.

However, Hughes said that when Crabtree died, it was too late to remove him from the ballot at that point. 

The next city council meeting is set for Monday, September 14. Hughes said that is likely when the appointment could be made.

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