The city of Laurel gave word of Mayor Thomas Nelson passing away Friday morning, just four days before Tuesday's election.
The three remaining candidates all knew Nelson for many years.
"It was quite a shock for most of us," said Laurel City Councilman Scot Stokes, also a candidate for mayor. "And Laurel is a little town and everybody kind of likes to know what's going on and try to take care of each other. So, you know, when we lose one of our own, it's tough."
"It's a loss to our community and a loss to our city government and we're deeply affected by it," said Laurel City Councilman Bruce McGee, also a mayoral candidate.
"The city itself, you know, lost a good man." said Dave Waggoner, who is also running for mayor. "Don't know what to say. just very shocked. Taken aback."
Waggoner beat Nelson in the Laurel mayoral election in 2017. Waggoner worked for the city water department, and according to the city charter, he could not serve as mayor, so Nelson was appointed.
"There was never any bitterness or any backlash either way," Waggoner said. "It happened and things turned out they way they did. And we moved on from there. Tom and I, we had our difference,s but we totally respected each other. "
"Tom and I hadn't always agreed with everything," said Stokes. "But it's always been...he taught me a lot when I first went on."
"While we had our differences, and sometimes things were not perfect between us, we were always on good terms and professionally worked well together," McGee said. "I had a lot of admiration for Tom and what he was able to accomplish at the time that he was mayor."
Nelson had been out for a few weeks reportedly battling COVID.
While all three candidates are now trying to figure out what that means for the race moving forward, they're all saddened by Nelson's passing.
"I just just really do wish that if Tom's family needs anything, anybody in the city needs anything, just ask," Stokes said.
"He will be missed," Waggoner said. "He was a good man."
"It's a real loss for me personally and I'm very much affected by it," McGee said. "And I really, really grieve for his family. My condolences for them. I know that they're suffering a tremendous loss."