York has had the same mayor since 2002, but in 2020 someone else will lead the town

Not all York County incumbents seeking to keep office walked away Tuesday as winners.

City of York challenger Mike Fuesser knocked off longtime incumbent Eddie Lee to take over the city’s top elected position. Lee has been mayor since 2002.

Fuesser defeated Lee by a margin of just over 35 votes, according to unofficial results from the York County Board of Voter Registration and Elections. Results will be made official Thursday.

Just over 750 votes were cast in the city of more than 8,000 residents, elections board results show. The town of York is the York County seat of government.

Fuesser, a city councilman who works for American Airlines, said he knew defeating an incumbent would be difficult.

“I have to give a huge thank you to all who gave their time and encouragement,” Fuesser said after winning.

One of Fuesser’s main campaign themes was a plan to focus on downtown York’s business district. After taking office the first week in January, Fuesser said his first order of business will be historic downtown. It needs to be a destination for people not just from York, but elsewhere, Fuesser said.

“We have to promote the downtown area and invest time and money in it,” Fuesser said.

Fuesser said he thanks Eddie Lee for his service as mayor.

“Mayor Lee has given 17 years of his life to this city, and I appreciate all he has done for the city and people of York,” Fuesser said.

Tuesday night in York, incumbent and challenger had to get through official city council business before learning of election results. Fuesser and Lee were at the York City Council meeting, which started at 6 p.m., and ran through the close of election polls at 7 p.m.

Lee said he told Fuesser after the meeting he wished Fuesser the best. Lee also said he told Fuesser he would assist in any transition.

“It has been my honor and privilege to represent the people of York for these 17-plus years,” Lee said.

Lee said he campaigned on his past successes, which include the renovation of the historic York County Courthouse and the building of the new York County administration offices. Both buildings are in downtown York and crucial to the city’s economy and importance as county seat, Lee said.

Lee also said he is proud of the city’s transparency and resident service during his 17 years at the helm.

“Democracy is always best when it is open and transparent,” Lee said.

Change at the top does not come often in York. Lee took office in 2002, defeating 11-year incumbent Roddy Connelly.

The mayor in York serves a four-year term. Lee did not speculate on his political future, but did say his campaign signs were picked up Wednesday and are going into storage.

Fuesser will take office in January 2020.

Lee is a Winthrop University history professor. He also is known for annually dressing up for the annual York Christmas parade in December.

“I will be there again this year as Santa Claus,” Lee said.

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Andrew Dys covers breaking news and public safety for The Herald, where he has been a reporter and columnist since 2000. He has won 51 South Carolina Press Association awards for his coverage of crime, race, justice, and people. He is author of the book “Slice of Dys” and his work is in the U.S. Library of Congress.