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Sullivan school board honors 2 former members with combined 36 years of service

Rick Wagner • Oct 6, 2018 at 5:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Former Sullivan County Board of Education members Jerry Greene and Dan Wells spent a combined total of 36 years on the county school board, and Greene spent another nine on the Bristol, Tenn., school board before that.

However, when they were honored for their service during the county BOE meeting Tuesday, both said instead of looking to the past they were looking ahead to the opening of two new facilities approved during their tenure: Sullivan East Middle School, set to open in 2019, and West Ridge High School, set to open in 2020.

THEY LEFT TWO DIFFERENT WAYS

Greene, left his District 6 seat after 24 years by not seeking another term in the Aug. 2 general election, while Wells lost his re-election bid to the District 2 seat after a dozen years on the board to newcomer Paul Robinson. The election was held the day after Wells, Greene and three other board members voted to move forward with the West Ridge project by approving the construction bid. The vote was 5-2, with Mark Ireson and Jane Thomas voting no.

Greene was replaced by Randall Gilmore, who defeated Gee Gee Hillman in District 6.

BOE Chairman Michael Hughes praised Wells and Greene for their dedication at Tuesday’s meeting, and Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski presented them with clocks as a token of their service. Hughes, also a supporter of West Ridge, although he initially voted against the plan because he wanted a new high school in the Sullivan East zone, withstood a challenge for his District 4 seat from Derrick Paduch.

“I’m not going to be leaving because you’ll see me,” said Greene. “I want to see the two new schools built.”

Wells, who lost to Robinson 1,500 to 1,345, said he has no regrets about his vote to award the bid. During the campaign, Robinson was critical of the plan to consolidate Sullivan North, South and much of Central into West Ridge, leaving Sullivan East as the other county high school.

“We’re on the right track,” Wells said of West Ridge. “I think it’s a reality now.”

WHAT WAS THE BLOOMINGDALE ELECTION FACTOR?

Part of the District 2 seat, redrawn along with the other five board seat because of shifting population, has a history of ousting incumbents. Then-newcomer Todd Broughton (elected in August as a county commissioner) in 2012 won a Bloomingdale-centered school board seat over 30-year board member Jim Kiss. (Kiss, who died in August of 2017, kept local high school football statistics for 56 years, first for Ketron High School and then North High.)

However, by 2016, reapportionment had drawn Broughton and fellow incumbent Randall Jones of Indian Springs into the same district, and Jones defeated Broughton by 26 votes, 894 to 868.

In 2018, when Robinson beat Wells at the polls, one of the precincts that Broughton said he would have won back in 2016, Vermont United Methodist Church, had been moved to District 6. In 2018, it turned the election for Robinson, who lives nearby. Wells was 511 to 493 at Lynn Garden Community Center and 568 to 502 at Traders Village but lost to Robinson at Vermont 266 to 505.

WHO ATTENDED?

A reception for Greene and Wells before the Tuesday meeting drew former Director of Schools John O’Dell, the first school board-appointed director and last elected superintendent, and former Superintendent Wallace Ketron, as well as former board member and Vice Chairman Jack Bales of Sullivan Gardens and his wife, former board member Evelyn Bales. Former Chairman Charles Bridwell of Indian Springs did not attend but sent his regards to Wells and Greene via Hughes.

 

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