A crowded field of seven candidates for the East Ridge City Council was winnowed down Tuesday night as Esther Helton and Brian Williams were declared the winners of two open seats.

The seats were vacated by Marc Gravitt and Denny Manning, whose terms run out in December.

Helton, a licensed practical nurse, took an early lead Tuesday and expanded it from several hundred votes to almost 1,000. Her final total was 3,424.

She credited her win largely to diligent work and prioritizing voters off the usual beaten paths she thinks other candidates focused on.

"I went door to door pretty much every day. I probably knocked on between 1,200 and 1,500 doors in East Ridge," she said. "Every day I got up and tried to work hard and meet new people."

To the voters who put her on the City Council, she offered overwhelming thanks.

"It's just a real honor and a privilege to be able to serve. I'm looking forward to going to work to help the community."

The second seat went to Williams, a business analyst for Quanta Services, who won 2,404 votes.

He could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night. However, in an earlier email to the Times Free Press he wrote, "I have been a resident of East Ridge for 18 years.... While I would be a newcomer to elected office, I am no stranger to the needs of our community."

As the election results rolled in, Williams was neck and neck with Jim Bethune, a retired automotive industry general manager and veteran of the U.S. Air Force who kept the race to a margin of less than 10 votes at times.

"All I got to say is it was a good, clean race, and I congratulate both winners," Bethune said.

Robert Stahl, another defeated candidate, said he wishes the new City Council all the best.

"The voters of East Ridge have demonstrated who they want as their next leaders and I wish the new council people congratulations and hope they take the city in great strides ahead," he said.

Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at or 423-757-6731. Follow on Twitter @emmettgienapp.