NEW PORT RICHEY — One of the best birthday presents Jeff Starkey ever had came at age 13, when he and a friend got to ride in a Cessna four-seater over Pasco County, the coastline and down to the Sunshine Skyway bridge.
The pilot: a seasoned airman named Chopper Davis.
Two decades passed before their paths crossed again. But Tuesday night, Starkey and Davis embarked on a new ride together, this time clinching seats on the New Port Richey City Council.
"I have nothing but respect for Chopper Davis and look forward to serving with him," said Starkey, 38, owner of Great Florida Insurance.
Starkey won his seat handily as top vote-getter in the seven-person field. Davis' race, however, came down to the wire.
When the results were initially tabulated, Davis had a lead of nine votes over downtown business owner Rose Mohr, which would have triggered a recount. Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley decided to fast-track evaluation of three provisional ballots to see if they made a difference.
Two of the provisional ballots were cast by voters who came to the polls without identification, and one came from a resident who had recently moved to the city. All three checked out to be properly registered, Corley said.
One of those ballots went to Davis, giving him a 0.51 percent lead over Mohr — just over the threshold of 0.5 percent under which state law requires a recount, Corley said. Davis, who had 296 votes to Mohr's 286, was declared the winner.
"I tell people all the time when I speak that their vote counts. And this is an excellent example of that," Corley said.
Starkey and Davis will take over seats vacated by Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe, who decided not to seek reelection, and Bob Langford, who came in fourth Tuesday.
Davis, 65, a sales associate for a financial transaction service company and member of the city's Fireman's Pension Board, also said he's looking forward to working with Starkey.
The two reminisced about that birthday plane ride when they saw each other several weeks ago at an informational session for council candidates.
"We hashed out the past, hashed out the present and our hopes for the future," Davis said. "And our hopes for the future that day have come true."