Haywood County will soon have a new sheriff in town

Nov. 9—Republican Bill Wilke won the election for Haywood County Sheriff in a near landslide Tuesday.

Wilke got 61% of the vote, compared to 39% for Democrat Larry Bryson.

"Thank you for trusting me with such a great responsibility," Wilke said. "I want every citizen of Haywood County to rest well to knowing that I will defend their God-given rights protected by our Constitution with everything I have."

Wilke pledges to serve as sheriff with "leadership, integrity and strength."

"These aren't just words, they are a way of life," Wilke said in a video address posted to his Facebook page following the election outcome Tuesday.

Wilke thanked voters for entrusting him with a great responsibility, and warned potential law breaks that they will be held accountable under his watch.

"Let me share a word of caution for those who think they can steal from or harm the good people of Haywood County. I won't tolerate it," Wilke said.

It's been 12 years since Haywood County voters saw a contested sheriff's race — let alone a wide-open race like the one this year. Outgoing Sheriff Greg Christopher ran unopposed in the last two elections.

Wilke is the first Republican sheriff in Haywood County in roughly a century. He will also be the first sheriff in recent history who is not a native of Haywood County.

Wilke ran on a platform of modernizing the sheriff's office and will enter the office with a 10-point plan for improving operations.

"It is time for change in Haywood County, and I'm the one to bring it," Wilke, 53, said during the campaign. "I am the only candidate who has published a plan for the future and isn't relying on 'This is the way we've always done it.'"

Wilke worked for the Asheville Police Department for 16 years, reaching the rank of lieutenant, before becoming a private investigator in 2016.

Bryson, meanwhile, ran on a platform of his past experience within the sheriff's office, working his way up to chief deputy and even interim sheriff for a stint before retiring in 2013.

"I've worked in every aspect of the job — investigated murders, prepared a budget, led drug task forces. My experience is broad and deep," Bryson, 67, said during the campaign.

He also embraces transparency, which he says is needed to improve community relations and build public trust in the sheriff's office. One of his plans is to create a community-advisory panel.

"My door will always be open to the people of Haywood County. This is your office and I am privileged to have your trust to serve in it," Wilke said in his video address.

Sheriff race vote totals

—Bill Wilke, R: 16,204

—Larry Bryson, D: 10,382