Democrats claimed victory in all three open commissioner seats in Haywood County, with incumbents Kirk Kirkpatrick and Bill Upton keeping their spots on the board.
Newcomer Michael Sorrells took the chair left vacant by Skeeter Curtis, who did not seek re-election.
Current board chairman Kirkpatrick took eight districts, including all of Waynesville, Lake Junaluska and Clyde South. He has sat on the commission since 2002 and held the chair since 2008. A lawyer by trade, Kirkpatrick ran on a platform of experience, especially with budget management.
Upton won the privilege of a second term on the board, winning only four precincts but just over 17 percent of the vote. He claimed Clyde North and three Beaverdam districts, placing third behind Kirkpatrick and Sorrells. Now retired, he has spent much of his career in the public service, including a stint as principal of Pisgah High School and long-time superintendent with the Haywood County school system. Unsurprisingly, Upton lists education as his top priority, closely followed by keeping the county’s extremely low tax rate as low as possible.
Sorrells claimed 10 precincts, mostly in the northern and western districts, and took a little over 18 percent of all votes. Although new to the county commission, Sorrells is no stranger to the political process. He has spent the last six years on the Haywood County School Board and campaigned on promises of fiscal responsibility and maintaining low taxes. He is a native of Haywood County and runs a family business, Sorrells Merchandise Company, with his wife.
Republican Denny King pulled up just short of grasping a commission seat, and although he bested Upton in precincts won – seven to Upton’s four – he pulled in only 16 percent of the popular vote.
The three winners will now join fellow Democrat Mark Swanger and lone Republican Kevin Ensley, who both won fights for their positions in 2008.
While the chair currently belongs to Kirkpatrick and Upton serves as vice chairman, they are not guaranteed to keep those titles on the new board. Members will vote for the chairmanship when they take office in December.
Haywood County Commissioners
Michael T. Sorrells (D) 10,127
J.W. Kirk Kirkpatrick III (D) 10,022
Bill Upton (D) 9,652
Denny King (R) 8,927
David Bradley (R) 8,703
Tom Freeman (R) 7,919