PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Panama City’s long-serving mayor is now facing his toughest challenge in some time.
Mayor Greg Brudnicki got 47 percent of the vote and 1,970 total votes during Tuesday night’s election. Michael “Doc” Rohan got 41 percent of the vote and 1,710 votes. The two men will now face each other in a run-off without Brenda Lewis-Williams on the ballot. She got 12 percent of the vote and 508 total votes.
Panama City’s charter requires a run-off if no one in a multiperson race gets 50 percent of the vote plus 1.
Brudnicki said the race was definitely closer than he was expecting but he is determined to keep fighting in the run-off election.
He said if re-elected, he will continue his number one priority of getting the city completely rebuilt post-Hurricane Michael.
“Our top priority is rebuilding the city,” Brudnicki said. “We’ve got a vision. We’re casting that vision. It’s a citizen-driven process. It’s what the citizens said they wanted us to do so we’ll keep moving forward with doing that. We just need to convince people about some of the things that were said prior to and let them know the truth about a lot of things.”
The other runoff contender is Dr. Michael Rohan.
Rohan ran a campaign focusing on preserving the marina, doing away with the fire assessment, and fixing infrastructure.
He said the results are an indication that people want change.
“I am very excited,” Rohan said. “The voters here in Panama City have seen that they can make a decision, that they can choose someone other than the incumbent. There’s a lot of issues out there that people have looked at, and I’m glad to get a chance to show them some more of what I can do and the shortcomings of our present administration.”
Brenda Lewis-Williams said she wants to thank all of her supporters and said she hopes the city becomes more responsible.
“When God gave me permission to do this, I said if I should be successful, I was going to raise a hallelujah,” Lewis-Williams said. “If I was not successful, I was still going to raise the hallelujah because I did what I intended to do and that was to draw attention to the inadequacies and the inconsistencies in the Panama City government.”
Janice Lucas was elected as Commissioner of Ward 2 with 65 percent of the vote and 536 votes.
After previous unsuccessful runs for office, Lucas said she is thrilled to have been elected to represent Ward 2, but she said if the election taught her anything, it’s that the community needs to be re-engaged.
“While I’m happy about the win tonight, the numbers are still low,” Lucas said. “We have to get our citizens re-engaged in our city. Community engagement through civic workshops, helping people understand how to be a part of their city. That’s one of the first things I want to work on.”
Michelle Bryant got 35 percent and 283 votes.
She said she is happy for Lucas and looks forward to working with her for the benefit of Ward 2.
“The fight definitely continues here in Ward 2 in Glenwood, Millville, and in St. Andrews,” Bryant said. “There’s still a lot of work that still needs to be done so I’m definitely looking forward to working with Janice Lucas and all of the new candidates and ensuring that Ward 2 gets what it needs and deserves.”
Longtime incumbent Commissioner Billy Rader lost his Ward 3 seat Tuesday night with 306 votes and 25 percent. Challenger Bruce Lang got 275 votes and 23 percent. Brian Grainger won the seat outright with 641 votes and 52 percent of the vote.
Grainger said even he didn’t anticipate winning tonight.
“Honestly, it was it was a bit surreal because I was very much expecting to go into a runoff,” Grainger said. “And I mean, the goal was always to try to get as many voters as we possibly could to come out and show up. And but just statistically speaking, running the numbers, looking at it. And we thought we’d probably be in a runoff.”
Rader who has held the seat since 2007 said he’s sad to leave.
“Well, that’s kind of bitter,” Rader said. “It’s bittersweet, but it’s America. And the public spoke, and the community spoke. The city spoke. And that’s what happened.”
A heavy push from the business community and the Economic Development Alliance convinced voters to approve a property tax exemption for new businesses. The rule change got 2,183 votes and 53 percent approval. About 47 percent of voters, 1,969 votes, were against the measure