Incumbent Hughes, newcomers Robinson and Gilmore win Sullivan school board seats

Rick Wagner • Aug 2, 2018 at 11:19 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — For Michael Hughes of the Bluff City area, a Wednesday vote to award the construction bids for West Ridge High School  didn’t cost him a  Sullivan County school board seat Thursday. He won re-election over newcomer Derrick Paduch of Piney Flats.

However, newcomer Paul Robinson of Bloomingdale ousted veteran incumbent and school bids supporter Dan Wells of Lynn Garden.

In the third race, newcomer Randall Gilmore won against fellow newcomer Gee Gee Hillman in a race between retired teachers.

Those were the three nonpartisan Board of Education seats on Thursday’s county general election ballot. On the heels of the board’s Wednesday called meeting vote to approve the bids, opponents of the school had predicted Hughes and Wells would be defeated.

The new board members are to take office in September.


In unofficial returns with all precincts reporting, in the District 2 race Robinson won over Wells by a tally of 1,500 to 1,345 votes. Wells has served three four-year terms, having been elected first in 2006.

Polling places were the Lynn View Community Center, Traders Village and Vermont United Methodist Church. 

“My phone’s been going crazy,” Robinson said, adding that he’d like to thank the voters as well as his opponent for running a clean race. “Now the work actually starts.”

In the past few  BOE meetings, board members Mark Ireson and Jane Thomas have voted against West Ridge agenda items in a 5-2 split, which could become a 4-3 split if Robinson follows up on his opposition to the new high school. 

Although the Election Commission did not provide precinct-by-precinct breakdowns Thursday night, Wells said he thought the Vermont precinct might have pushed Robinson over the top. Until the last precinct update, Wells had been in the lead.

 “It is what it is,” Wells said. 


In District 6, former educators Gilmore and Hillman squared off, with Gilmore winning 1,821 to 1,345. Incumbent Jerry Greene of Bristol voted to award the bids but did not seek re-election after 24 years.

The polling places were Avoca Elementary, Anderson Elementary and the Sullivan County Offices in Blountville. 

Retired Colonial Heights Middle School Principal Gilmore, director of teacher education and assistant professor of education at King University, worked in public schools 33 years, serving mostly in Sullivan County and a short time in Bristol, Tenn. He has been a principal, teacher and coach and worked in all four high school zones.

“I’m very grateful for all the people who had confidence in me and I’ll do everything to honor that confidence,” said Gilmore, who has a Bluff City address. He also cited his and Hillman’s positive campaigns.

Hillman, of Blountville, said, “He’s a good person and he’s an educator. We need educators on the board.”

She is a longtime third grade teacher and still substitutes in the Sullivan County system.


District 4 incumbent and BOE Chairman Hughes withstood a challenge from Paduch, meaning Hughes gets a second four-year term.

Polling places in District 4 were Sullivan East High School, Buffalo Ruritan, Rocky Mount, Bluff City Town Hall and the Hickory Tree Firehall.

Hughes won 2,087 to 1,391. 

“I met him and I liked him,” Hughes said of Paduch, who said the school system paid too much for the sites of the new West Ridge High and Sullivan East Middle schools. 

“I really enjoyed the race,” Hughes said, adding that he gives “prayerful consideration” to every board vote “without bowing to pressure from anyone.” He also said he wanted to congratulate Paduch for a good campaign. “It gave me the opportunity to put things out there I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to do.”

“I did the best I could as a first-time candidate,” Paduch said, adding that he would support Hughes and try to provide future suggestions. “I felt like I had a lot of good points. I still feel like I have good points.”