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By Ben Benton and Paul Leach

bbenton@timesfreepress.com

Races for county mayor churned up plenty of voter interest and some startling upsets across counties in Southeast Tennessee.

Rhea County Mayor Billy Ray Patton was toppled by challenger George Thacker in a nonpartisan race.

Bledsoe County Republican incumbent Mayor Gregg Ridley lost his bid for re-election to Democrat Robert Collier.

In Meigs County, incumbent Democrat Ken Jones was defeated by former seat holder Garland Lankford.

But in Polk County, former County Executive Hoyt Firestone, a Democrat, reclaimed the seat in a battle with Republican challenger David L. Dishman.

Firestone served for 20 years before he was knocked off in a 2006 primary by Mike Stinnett. This year, he turned the tables and ousted Stinnett.

Rhea's Thacker said he's "humbled that so many people believed in him."

"I'll work hard (in the job) as I did to get the job," he said. He said his main priority is to create jobs and industry.

Patton could not be reached for comment.

Polk winner Firestone said he was "pleased with the result."

"I consider it a privilege to be offered a second chance to serve the people of Polk County," he said.

Dishman could not be reached.

Firestone said he's looking forward to getting back to work and to helping people out.

Marion County's mayoral race was undetermined at press time because of technical problems.

Democrat David A. Kirk, longtime former county trustee, battled Republican Russ Hood, who resigned from the school board, in the battle for that county mayor's seat. The seat was vacated by longtime Democrat Mayor Howell Moss, who held the post for 20 years until announcing his retirement in 2009.

Throughout the rest of Southeast Tennessee, the winners in mayoral races in each county were:

* In Bradley County, incumbent Republican D. Gary Davis easily defeated Democratic challenger Paul Krisle and independent Erin Fuller.

* In Grundy County, Democrat Lonnie D. Cleek beat independent Kelly Foutch.

* In Sequatchie County, Michael Hudson was elected for a second term, defeating challengers D. Keith Cartwright and Jeffrey S. Mackey. Sequatchie races are nonpartisan.

Follow this link to our Tennessee Elections 2010 website

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