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Sullivan BOE incumbents Ron Smith and Jim Kiss defeated

August 3rd, 2012 3:46 am by Rick Wagner

BLOUNTVILLE -- Sullivan County Board of Education candidates at a recent forum talked about whether the school board needed new blood or not.

Voters Thursday decided each side was half right.

Two incumbents held on to their BOE seats in Thursday's Sullivan County general election, according to unofficial tallies, but the other two incumbents -- including the longest-serving member of the BOE and its chairman -- were defeated.

The two new faces on the BOE are Randall Jones of Indian Springs in District 5 and Todd Broughton of Bloomingdale in District 1.

Jones got 1,051 votes, beating fellow newcomer Anissa Lyttle of Indian Springs with her 618. Both, however, outpolled BOE Chairman Ron Smith of the Blountville/Piney Flats area. The two-term Smith, who has served eight years, got 499 votes.

And newcomer Broughton got 1,085 votes, beating 28-year BOE veteran Jim Kiss of Bloomingdale. Kiss had 808.

In the other two races, District 3 incumbent Jack Bales of Indian Springs beat challenger Heather Price of Sullivan Gardens, while District 7 incumbent Betty Combs of the Bluff City area beat challenger Michael Hughes, also of the Bluff City area.

The tallies were Bales 1,125 and Price 960, while Combs got 862 compared to Hughes' 689.

According to financial disclosures, Jones and Combs were the two highest spenders among the nine candidates.

Broughton could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

"Surprised, yeah, a little, but I kind of halfway expected it," Kiss said of the results. "I really don't know why."

Kiss said he likely would remain involved in Sullivan North High athletics. He has been a football statistician for North, and before that, Ketron High School, since the middle of the 1957 season. The 2012 one will be his 56th season.

Broughton and Kiss both have been critical of North zone changes, including the "school within a school" concept with North Middle in the same building and on the same schedule as North High this fall.

In the other upset race, Smith could not be reached for comment Thursday night, but Jones said he looks forward to serving on the county BOE.

"I'm looking forward to working with the Sullivan County school system," said Jones, retired assistant director of schools from Bristol, Tenn. He also taught in Bristol and Kingsport and was a high school principal in Bristol and taught at Steed College.

"I have no hidden agenda. I'm no one-issue man," Jones said. "I was running for a position, not against Ron or the current system."

Jones said he plans to study board policy and procedures.

Newcomers Hughes and Lyttle indicated during a July 10 forum at Sullivan Central High School that the four contested races -- a first in about 30 years -- were a sign that it was time for "new blood" to take over, but during the same forum incumbent Combs drew laughter when she retorted that the "old blood was just fine."

The seven-member board, including three other members whose terms will expire in 2014, oversees a system of about 10,600 students -- the largest Tennessee school system east of Knoxville and the largest in the region.

The board in 2010 for the first time chose a director of schools from outside Sullivan County, Jubal Yennie.

He followed former Director Jack Barnes, whose two-year contract was not renewed after a deeply divided board voted 3-4 on a motion to keep Barnes.

The two newly elected and two re-elected BOE members will take office effective Sept. 1 for four-year terms. The pay is $400 a month for the chairman, a position elected by BOE members, not the public, and $350 a month for the board-chosen vice chairman and five other members.

BOE members also are eligible to buy group insurance through the school system like other employees.

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