For the first time since 1990, voters in Eureka Springs have re-elected a mayor.
Mayor Robert "Butch" Berry got 514 votes Tuesday, compared with 284 for Theodore Cottingham, who changed his name to Grace in 2016 and dressed as a woman for a year, according to his website, theodorecottingham.com.
"It was part of my spiritual path as I increasingly sought to acknowledge and experience my unity with the The Divine Feminine," according to his website. "In March of 2017 I changed my legal name back to Theodore and resumed dressing as a man, feeling I had completed that portion of my path."
Mike Seals trailed the other two candidates with 174 votes in the unofficial tally.
Berry got more than 50 percent of the vote, so he won't have to face Cottingham in a runoff election.
Berry said voters in the tourist town historically have been tough on mayors. As a result, many mayors quit, lose their re-election bid or decide not to run again.
"One of the problems we've had is we haven't had any continuity in Eureka Springs," Berry said. "Every four years, we've had a different, you might say, captain of the ship. And every four years, the ship has turned in a different direction. So I've finally got it turned in a positive direction and the ship isn't sinking anymore."
When he became mayor four years ago, Eureka Springs was on the brink of bankruptcy, Berry said. The mayor said he implemented spending freezes and other financial measures to get the city back on track.
"We had to have our life preservers on to keep from sinking," he said, continuing with the shipwreck metaphors.
Eureka Springs has had a history of colorful, contentious and unusual politics. In 1994, voters elected a deceased woman, Louise Berry, to serve on the City Council, but a judge invalidated the results after allegations of election fraud and ordered a new election.
In 2010, Rachel Love, a transgender woman, ran for mayor. She and four other candidates lost to Morris Pate, a former assistant police chief in the city.
Ann Armstrong, the city clerk and treasurer, said she found no record of anybody who had served for two full terms as mayor.
In 1990, the last time Eureka Springs voters re-elected a mayor, Richard Schoeninger quit a few months into his second term.
"I like to say I resigned on Fools Day, April 1," said the former mayor, who had his name legally changed in 1991 to Richard Schoe.
Schoe, who now lives in Fayetteville, said the issue for him was salary. At the time, the Eureka Springs mayor's job paid $2 a month, he said. Now, the job pays $18,000 a year.
Schoe said he had inherited money, so he didn't really need a salary during his first term in office, but he was running out of money. And he was really more concerned about future mayors of Eureka Springs.
"Democracy needs to have a full-time representative and not be financed out of it," he said.
"You've got to be pretty thick-skinned and have a source of strength, because you're not going to get it once you're in office," he said of the Eureka Springs mayor's job. "Everything's your fault or you're a problem to solve," Schoe said.
Dani Joy, who was mayor from 2007 to 2011, said she didn't run for re-election because of medical reasons.
She said Eureka Springs draws well-educated people from other states, and many of them think they know how to fix all of the town's problems.
"Everybody wants to be the head honcho until they get in there and find out how bad it is," she said. "You can't make everybody happy, and if you don't go in there with that knowledge, you're fooling yourself."
Metro on 11/08/2018
Print Headline: Eureka Springs re-elects mayor