Haywood commissioner race: meet the candidates

Three of the five seats on the Haywood County board of commissioners are up for election this year.

A field of five Democratic candidates — the three incumbents and two challengers —  will be narrowed down to three in the primary election.

There are two Republicans and one Libertarian running, but they automatically advance to the general election in November without a primary.


Kirk Kirkpatrick, 45 • Waynesville

Kirkpatrick has a solo law firm in Waynesville and does a mix of criminal and civil cases, as well as real estate law.

Kirkpatrick has been a county commissioner for 12 years and consistently wins re-election as the top vote getter.

Kirkpatrick defended a suite of county building projects over the past decade as necessary and a smart move for the future. They included a new courthouse, a new jail and sheriff’s office, a new office for the department of social services and health department, a senior resource center, a landfill expansion, a new community college building and an adult day care. 

“Basically I feel like I have been a contractor for the past 10 years,” Kirkpatrick lamented. “But it had to be done and somebody had to do it and hopefully we did it at the least expensive point in time.”

PLATFORM: “I really like my county. I like the people in the county. I enjoy doing what I do. I want to have good open government. I want to see our county prosper.”


Mike Sorrells, 57 • Jonathan Creek

Sorrells is the owner of a gas station, community general store, auto repair and tire service and café in his home community of Jonathan Creek.

He served on the school board for six years and has been a county commissioner for four years.

Sorrells touts the county’s economic development record over the past four years. The county extended property tax breaks to two existing manufacturers — Sonoco Plastics and Conmet — as an incentive for expanding their operations and adding jobs.

The county landed a $2.1 million state grant and will put in $700,000 in county money to help Evergreen paper mill with a $50 million coal-to-natural gas conversion in order to meet air pollution standards.

The county played a supporting role for Haywood Regional Medical Center, amid its financial uncertainty. And the county re-envisioned its economic development arm as a joint venture with the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce.

PLATFORM: “I have common sense. You have to look at whether something is a good, wise decision and you move forward.”


Bill Upton, 69 • Canton

Upton spent 35 years in public education, as an assistant principal and principal of Pisgah High School, principal of Meadowbrook Elementary and eventually superintendent.

He’s been a county commissioner for eight years and is proud of the course the county is on.

Upton said he is a supporter of education and children. His career in the school system taught him how to work with people, be it parents, teachers or students.

“You can’t prejudge a kid’s actions, you have to listen to both sides and make a fair decision,” Upton said.

He said the current board has been forward-thinking and balanced.

PLATFORM: “I have managed a large budget with responsibility and integrity, and I haven’t been afraid to make tough decisions. I have worked to find the best solutions to our county’s needs while being open to the will and voice of our citizens.”


Kyle Edwards, 74 • Maggie Valley

Edwards has been a contractor since 1970 and specializes in grading, excavation and heavy equipment jobs. He grew up dirt-poor but went on to become a self-made business man. 

“I started with one backhoe,” he said, a far cry from the expansive machinery yard outside his living room window today.

He is the owner of the Stompin’ Ground, a clogging and entertainment venue in Maggie Valley, which he built to showcase the natural talents of his two children, who were both champion cloggers.

Edwards also runs a 100-site commercial campground in Maggie Valley, which he built in the early 2000s. He was a Maggie Valley alderman in the 1970s and 1980s.

PLATFORM: Lower taxes, smaller government, less regulation, private property rights, gun rights, business friendly, pro-veteran and pro-seniors.


Bob McClure, 67 • Crabtree

McClure prides himself on being in Haywood County’s workforce for 50 years, mostly in manufacturing. He worked at Unagusta Furniture Factory, then Dayco for three decades, and the short-lived Dana Corporation.

Twice, the factory he worked at closed and he was laid off. He soon found a new job with the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, where he’s worked as a jailer and now a court bailiff.

“I had to keep going. I have never been a quitter. Even when those plants shut down I was out the next day looking for a job. I feel as a person you are just as strong as you want to be,” McClure said.

McClure said he would put his energy as a commissioner into recruiting industry and jobs, ideally small manufacturing.

“As part of the commissioner team we should be out trying to find jobs,” McClure said.

McClure said he doesn’t know how much the current board does on this front, nor how he would go about it himself or what the prospects of being successful are, but he would try. 

“I just know as commissioner, if I am elected as commissioner, I would be more hands on trying to get jobs,” McClure said. “Don’t set on their laurels and expect something to happen. Try to make something happen in the job force.”

PLATFORM: “I feel like what I am doing is for everybody in Haywood County because I feel like the decisions that is made by the commissioners affect all the people in Haywood County, and they deserve to know what is going on in Haywood County and have a voice in what is going on.”

But some opponents believe the sitting commissioners are agents of the government instead of a voice for the people.

“My main objective is to give people a voice of what they want to happen in Haywood County,” said Bob McClure, a challenger on the Democratic ticket. “We need to get more people involved in the meetings, when they go to the meetings, and get more feedback of what the majority of people want, not just a select few.”

Kirkpatrick said he tries to be cognizant of that.

“I have to take a good look at myself and not think that I have all the answers to things and to continue to listen to people. You have to tell yourself all the time to make sure to listen to people,” Kirkpatrick said.

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