Haywood County school board race

There are four seats up for election on the Haywood County school board this November. The county is divided into geographic districts for the school board race. No matter where you live, you can vote in each race. The geographic districts merely dictate where the candidates must live. Here’s a look at the incumbents and their challengers.



Bruce Sutton, incumbent

Sutton is retired from the Dayco plant and now works in barn wood and log cabin reclamation. Sutton has served 8 years on the school board. He said he was not originally planning to run, but supporters encouraged him to.

“A lot of people want me still on the board and a lot of people expressed gratitude,” Sutton said. “We got the bond passed and there are a lot of projects I would like to see through and see completed that the existing board started. I would like to be there to see them finished.”

Keith Wyatt, challenger

Wyatt has worked as a teacher, assistant principal and principal at many schools in the county, mostly recently serving as principal of Hazelwood Elementary for 13 years.

Wyatt said he understands the realities of working in the schools and in the classroom on a daily basis. That experience will help him develop better solutions to problems facing the schools. He also said he understands how school board decisions affect education.

He said he has often seen “today’s solutions become tomorrow’s problems.”

He said he has lots of ideas for improving the school system


Jimmy Rogers, incumbent

Rogers is the owner of Haywood Tractor. Rogers has been on the board for six years.

Rogers said he does not understand why his opponent is calling for change on the school board.

“I feel like the board is very uniform and are trying to do what is right,” Rogers said. “I want to help the kids in the county have the best education possible.”

Rogers said he also does not agree with his opponent’s assessment of an entrenched school board that doesn’t think for itself.

“I don’t know where he is coming from on that,” Rogers said. “I don’t know of any buddy system. I don’t believe anyone on that board is a yes man. I support our administration as much as I can but I won’t just go along with them because they recommend something.”

Johnny Jones, challenger

Jones is a service manager at By-pass Power and Equipment. Jones said some members of the school board have been there too long. They are too entrenched to think independently, ask questions or come up with new ideas.

“I honestly believe you get complacent,” Jones said. “I am not a yes man. I will not ride the train. I am not in the good ole boy system. “I believe right now that is what we have right now on the board with several folks.”

Jones said one of his missions would be improving opportunities in the school that encourage students to continue with higher education.

Fines Creek

Stevie Kirkpatrick, incumbent

Kirkpatrick has been on the board for four years. He works for Bell South.

“Right now the board as a whole works together and I think good will come of it if we all get elected back,” Kirkpatrick said. “I look at the board doing great right now.”

Kirkpatrick first ran for school board when he was 24 years old, but lost that time.

“One reason I decided to run is when I was in high school it seemed like, maybe it was just, me but that maybe everybody wasn’t given a chance when I was in high school, that maybe some people were falling through the cracks. I felt like I maybe could do some good,” Kirkpatrick said. “I knew the ins and outs of how everyday students was and I wanted to make sure students had the same opportunity whether they came form a rich class, middle class or poor class.”

D.B. Arrington, challenger

Arrington is a retired custodian and bus driver for the schools. Arrington said he is concerned about the direction the school board and administration has gone in the past couple of years.

Arrington said the current school board is not pro-active enough, does not think critically about issues facing the schools but instead defers to the administration too much.

“I feel like they are letting the administration lead them instead of them helping lead the administration,” Arrington said. “If the school board is going to let the administration lead, you don’t need the school board. You need the school board to help make the right decisions. That’s why you have nine people there, to iron out and pick the best things and present it. And then it goes to the administration to make it happen.”

Arrington served on the school board before, but was beat by Kirkpatrick four years ago.

“I just saw so many things that went wrong in the past two years.”


Johnny Woody, incumbent

Woody has been on the board four years. He is a Realtor now, but was a teacher for more than 30 years.

“If you have been in education as long as I have, you have a passion for students and the well-being for those students,” Woody said. “I especially want to see the best facilities as possible for those students.”

Woody cited facilities as the number one issue facing the school system.

“That’s number one: to provide that educational facility,” Woody said.

Woody said he hopes to accomplish more good for the school system.

“I believe we are a much stronger school system than we were four years ago,” Woody said.

Pat Taylor, challenger

Taylor is retired from law enforcement, specifically as a detective. Taylor said she was inspired to run to after learning her nephew had read nearly all the books in his elementary school library. The library books were old, worn and outdated to boot.

“That alarmed me,” Taylor said. “Evidently the funding hadn’t been there to buy news books. I was upset the libraries are in that kind of shape.”

So her family began buying books for the library every year at Christmas in lieu of presents for each other. They also bought books on the birthday of her brother, Calvin Taylor, a Highway Patrol trooper who was killed on the job when a motorist struck him on the roadside.

“We bought thousands of dollars worth of books for that library,” Taylor said.

Taylor said education and learning tools should be more important than buildings.

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