Three Sullivan school board seats in play

Rick Wagner • Apr 9, 2018 at 12:45 PM

KINGSPORT  — Of the Sullivan County Board of Education’s seven seats, three will appear on the Aug. 2 general election ballot, and all three will be contested.

Incumbent Dan Wells and challenger Paul Robinson have qualified to seek the District 2 seat. Also, District 4 incumbent and BOE Chairman Michael Hughes and challenger Derrick Paduch met the filing deadline.

As reported previously by the Times News, former educators Randall Gilmore and Gee Gee Hillman have filed to run for the District 6 seat, to which Greene is not seeking re-election after 24 years. 

District 6 polling places are Avoca Elementary, Anderson Elementary and the Sullivan County offices in Blountville. 


Wells, of the Lynn Garden area, is seeking his fourth four-year term, having served 12 years, while Robinson, of Bloomingdale, is seeking his first elected office. 

Polling places in District 2 are the Lynn View Community Center, Traders Village and Vermont United Methodist Church.

Robinson, 36, works at Eastman Chemical Co. He has been married to Jenny Robinson for more than 15 years. They have two daughters at Ketron Elementary. He attended Kingsley Elementary, Ketron Middle School and graduated from Sullivan North High School in 2001. He helps run baseball, T-ball and softball programs for the Bloomingdale Optimist Club and has coached basketball with Ketron Elementary players for the Optimists.

“The kids in Bloomingdale, everywhere they (county school officials) are changing schools or closing a school,” Robinson said. “It’s time for someone to get in there and fight for Bloomingdale and Lynn Garden.” When his older daughter goes to middle school next year at North Middle, which is in the North High building, she would be in the last eighth-grade class to finish middle school there and then head to the new 1,700-student West Ridge High School near Tri-Cities Airport if it opens on time in the fall of 2020.

Wells, 68, was first elected to the boad in 2006. He is a retired insurance agent, having owned and operated an insurance office.

“It’s (running again) to see things completed, come to fruition, what we’ve been working toward,” Wells said of plans that include the new Sullivan East Middle School to open in the fall of 2019 and the new West Ridge High School.

Wells is an elder at New Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Church. He graduated from Lynn View High and then earned a bachelor’s degree in business from East Tennessee State University. He was a retail management trainee before going to work for Allstate Insurance until he sold that business. He and his wife, Delores, have two daughters and a grandson.

One daughter is a teacher at Dobyns-Bennett High School, while the other is a teacher’s aide in Sullivan County Schools. He has eight grandchildren, including one in the county school system. 


Paduch, of Piney Flats, is challenging one-term incumbent Hughes.

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

Paduch, 50, attended University School in Johnson City for three years and then moved to Florida his senior year. He returned to the area and earned his business administration bachelor’s degree from ETSU. He’s been married 16 years and has a 10-year-old at Mary Hughes School and two older children who graduated from East High. 

Paduch appeared before the school board in 2017 to argue against the site already chosen for the new Sullivan East Middle School on Weaver Pike. He also  said that site and the high school site were too expensive. 

“Taxpayers, I don’t think, got treated very fairly,” Paduch said. “I had a lot of encouragement from people in the area. I still don’t understand why we spent more than $4 million for land that should have cost $2 million.”

Paduch also said he would like to lessen testing and paperwork requirements on teachers so they can “get back to some old-fashioned teaching” and that the system should do all it can against drugs.

Hughes, 59, lives in Bluff City. For 13 years, he has been a Teamsters union representative for UPS workers. He is a former employee of UPS, having worked for the company 13 years. His wife and son are teachers in the school system. He was first elected to the board in 2014 over a one-term incumbent and is seeking his second four-year term. Hughes graduated from Sullivan East and earned an electrical engineering degree from Northeast State Community College.

“We have a lot of things started I’d like to see finished,” Hughes said, adding those include the new middle school and high school. He also said he wants to see test and ACT scores continue to increase, teacher morale keep improving and budget surpluses established.

Hughes voted against proceeding with the two-high-school model (East and the recently named West Ridge High School) but said once the majority of the board voted, that was the direction taken. He said he supports the negotiated purchase prices of both school sites and opposed the county using eminent domain to take the land, saying the county tax assessments did not reflect the properties’ higher uses beyond farmland.

He said the new middle school site is less than a mile from East High, which makes it perfect for a potential new elementary school and one day a new high school, and is near the geographical and student population center of the East school zone. 



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