The city of Diamondhead has a brand new mayor -- Ward 1 Councilwoman Nancy Depreo was declared the unofficial winner of the special mayoral race on Tuesday night, defeating her opponent Richard Willis by a vote of 1,121 to 888.

"To the residents of Diamondhead, thank you very much for the opportunity and I appreciate your support," Depreo said Tuesday after all the votes were counted. "To the Willis team, thank you for a great campaign."

Depreo said she is both proud and humbled to be only the second woman ever elected as mayor in any Hancock County community.

Depreo is also only the third mayor of Diamondhead, succeeding the late Thomas E. "Tommy" Schafer, who died on July 31 from complications after a surgical procedure; and the city's first mayor after it was incorporated, Chuck Ingraham.

Depreo will serve the remainder of Schafer's term, which expires next year. There will be a regular election for the position at that time.

Tuesday's special election had originally been scheduled for Sept. 15, but was postponed due to the threat of Hurricane Sally.

The vote tallies from Tuesday include more than 300 absentee ballots -- including more than 180 cast for the Sept. 15 election. A resolution board went through all the absentee ballots one by one Tuesday evening, to ensure there were no duplications or irregularities.

Diamondhead City Clerk Jeannie Klein said Tuesday that there are still about 12 affidavit ballots which have not yet been counted and 10 absentee ballots which have not yet been returned. Under current state law, the city must wait five business days from the date of the election to see if those ballots make it in. If they are postmarked by the date of the election, they would still be valid. However, Klein said, there weren't enough outstanding ballots to make a difference in the election results.

Depreo said she expects to be sworn in as mayor at the Diamondhead City Council's first meeting in November.

"I think we're all ready to get back to work," Depreo said. "We have a lot of great projects coming up and the future of the city of Diamondhead is bright. I will continue to work hard to serve every resident and make sure every voice is heard."

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