GOP election sweep ousts long-time Haywood County commissioner

Nov. 9—Haywood County Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick, who was on track to be the longest serving county commissioner in Haywood's history, lost in Tuesday's election.

Kirkpatrick was unseated by Republican Challenger Terry Ramey with a comfortable margin of nearly 2,000 votes. It was his fourth time running for county commissioner, but he never quit trying.

"By George, I want to help the people," Ramey said, when asked why he hadn't given up.

Ramey said his goal has always been to be a commissioner "of the people."

"I've got friends that are doctors and lawyers and I've got friends that don't have nothing — and they are all the same to me," Ramey said. "The people need somebody they feel comfortable talking to. That's the way I want to be looked at. I want to be available to all people at any time."

Kirkpatrick, an attorney, was the lone Democrat on the county board, a position he'd held for 20 years.

"I'll miss serving the people of Haywood County," Kirkpatrick said. "I feel good about what we have accomplished in the past 20 years, and I feel like I am leaving Haywood County in a good place. It don't know what will happen to it from here on out, but I wish the commissioners the best."

Meanwhile, Commissioners Jennifer Best and Tommy Long, both Republicans, kept their seats. Joined by Ramey, Haywood County will now have its first all-Republican board of county commissioners since the Civil War.

Just 20 years ago, there was only one Republican on the five-seat board of commissioners, with Democrats reining in nearly every county position — from sheriff to tax collector.

But Haywood's political landscape has shifted dramatically in a relatively short-time. The reason is two-fold: Southern Democrats have defected from the party, while population growth from people moving here has given rise to a new demographic.

Kirkpatrick said he felt like his 20-year history on the county board could overcome the political shift, but feared the writing was on the wall.

"I was a little surprised, but at the same time, I could see it coming. You have an evolution of national politics infiltrating voting trends at the local level," Kirkpatrick said.

Ironically, Kirkpatrick and Ramey aren't too far apart on the political spectrum. Kirkpatrick is a conservative Democrat, at times landing further to the right than some of the Republicans on the county board. And Ramey was formerly a Democrat, but switched parties after his first commissioner run.

Commissioner Tommy Long, who won re-election, is looking forward to another four years.

"It is an honor to serve the folks of Haywood County. It is humbling for the people to put their faith back in me for another term," Long said.

Long congratulated both Ramey and Best on their wins. He also thanked Kirkpatrick for the experience he brought to the board.

"He served the county well over the years and we appreciate that," Long said.

Ramey said he is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work, adding that since he's retired, he plans to give it his all.

"I feel like it's a fulltime job if you do it right," Ramey said.

Ramey, 67, worked for Dayco for years before it closed and later owned a wrecking business.

Vote totals

Below at the vote totals in the county commissioner race. Three of the five seats on the county board were up for election, so the top three vote-getters got in.

—Commissioner Jennifer Best, R: 16,850

—Commissioner Tommy Long, R: 15,397

—Terry Ramey, R: 13,471

—Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick, D: 11,555

—Jeff Haynes, D: 11,264