Retired Kingsport City Schools teacher Jim Welch got the most votes in the Board of Education contest. In fact, he outpolled all other candidates on the city election ballot with 4,007 votes, easily leading the race for the three BOE seats. Second in the school board race was Eastman Chemical Company retiree Julie Brinker Byers with 2,500 votes, and third was incumbent and pharmaceuticals sales representative Todd Golden with 2,435.
The other two candidates were college professor Liv (pronounced “leave”) H. Detwiler and retired insurance executive and small businessman Shelton Clark. Detwiler finished fourth with 2,356 votes and Clark fifth with 2,326.
Incumbents Susan Lodal and Karen Reed-Wright did not seek re-election.
“I’m deeply humbled by the support people have shown me throughout this,” said Welch, who taught and coached at Robinson Middle School from 1976 to 2006 and then managed an international nonprofit group until recently. “I don’t know exactly to whom to give the credit.”
Welch and the other two winners said they did not believe a single issue or group of issues affected the results much since the candidates for the most part agreed in their answers to questions on the campaign trail.
“We have different interests in what drove us into running for the school board, but we have no substantive differences on issues,” Welch said. “When we got together, it was like a love fest.”
Byers and Golden agreed.
“There were five very qualified candidates,” Byers said, adding that she had lots of supporters and cheerleaders. “People know who I am.”
Golden said he believes he was re-elected as an incumbent because of the success of the school system.
“I don’t think there was one big issue,” Golden said. “I think the school system is doing quite well, and I think the voters recognized that.” He said the results will give the city a BOE with three incumbents: Golden, who is vice president, President Carrie Upshaw and Eric Hyche.
“I wouldn’t point to a single issue” that drove the race, Golden said. “They (voters) want to continue to see progress made.”
All five hopefuls opposed the Educational Savings Accounts or vouchers plan that squeaked through the General Assembly this session.
After Welch, the other four candidates were in a range of fewer than 200 votes from second to fifth places.
“We were all qualified. We had different passions,” Byers said. “If you look at the votes, we were all very close.”