Haywood County’s Bobby Suttles won his first election for the sheriff’s seat he has held since 2008, beating Republican challenger Bill Wilke by only 7 percent.
Suttles won 20 of the 29 precincts, with Wilke taking most of the county’s southern districts.
Both contenders brought a plethora of law enforcement experience to the race – Wilke touting his 14-year career and current position as night sergeant with the Asheville Police Department and Suttles’ resume listing 35 years of representing the law, including 15 with the sheriff’s department.
After the mid-term resignation of former sheriff Tom Alexander in 2008, Suttles was tapped by the Democratic Party to move into the sheriff’s role from the chief deputy position, which he’d held since 2003.
He ran on a platform of “continued progress,” promising technology upgrades and increased drug enforcement and selling his ability to effectively maintain the department’s budget.
Wilke, an Army reservist who just completed a tour in Iraq, also pledged his support for drug enforcement and better technology, and also vowed to take a $10,000 per-year personal pay cut. He also advocated for better reporting and accountability within the department.
Bobby Suttles (D) 10,612
William (Bill) Wilke (R) 9,332
The Haywood County Democratic Party has tapped Chief Deputy Bobby Suttles to replace outgoing Sheriff Tom Alexander.
Suttles is a 14-year employee of the sheriff’s department and a former Waynesville police officer. He won 111 of 166 votes cast by members of the Democratic Executive Committee on Feb. 7.
A total of five candidates applied for the sheriff post. Only three received a nomination from the Executive Committee — Suttles, retired NC Highway Patrol trooper Albert Allen, and Maggie Valley police officer Russell Gilliland. The other two — Ken Hollifield, a truck driver, and Raymond Ezell, a retired postal inspector, did not receive nominations.
Haywood County Commissioners must approve Suttles before he is officially appointed as the new sheriff, but they are bound to rubber stamp the party’s recommendation.
— By Julia Merchant