Who will succeed Sheriff Suttles?

By Vicki Hyatt | Dec 23, 2012

Haywood County Sheriff Bobby Suttles’ announcement that he is stepping down before completing his four-year term has sparked a flurry of speculation about his successor.

Because Suttles ran on the Democratic ticket, the party will name a replacement until the voters have a chance to elect a sheriff in the 2014 election.

Those who have have been mentioned as possible candidates for the Democratic appointment include former Haywood County Sheriff Tom Alexander, Canton Police Chief Bryan Whitner, Waynesville Det. Jeff Haynes, Lt. Greg Christopher with the N.C. Highway Patrol and Chief Deputy Larry Bryson.

By law, Bryson will serve as sheriff between the time Suttles leaves office and a successor is named. In a letter to the Haywood County Commissioners, Suttles said his resignation will be effective Feb. 8. The executive committee of the Democratic Party in Haywood has 30 days from the resignation to present their choice to the commissioners, who will formally make the appointment.

Whoever is appointed to the post will face a vigorous election in 2014, perhaps with primary opposition, but certainly in the General Election.

Lt. Bill Wilke, district commander with the Asheville Police Department, ran on the Republican ticket for sheriff in 2010. The long-time Clyde resident finished strong against Suttles, who was appointed to his position in 2009, and said he plans to run in 2014.

“You can expect a committed and well-resourced campaign for my election in 2014,” Wilke said. “I will bring to the table a set of professional skills that will take the sheriff’s office to a new level of service in Haywood County.”

On the Democratic side, Christopher is mentioned frequently as being a strong contender for both the appointment and the party’s nomination.

He confirmed he will be retiring from the highway patrol at the end of February, and said he would be making an announcement regarding his future plans next month.

Bryson was out of the office until 2013, and couldn’t be reached for comment, and Alexander indicated stepping back into his old post is something he won’t rule out.

“I won’t actively pursue it, but if the party asked me, I’d consider it,” he said. “My love is law enforcement, and I know things need to go on until whoever decides to run. I’ll help whoever they appoint.”

Whitner said serving as county sheriff would be a great accomplishment, but indicated he planned to continue serving the people of Canton.

“They’ve stayed with me, and I’ll stay with them,” said Whitner, who has served in the department for the past 26 years. “I want to continue doing my job and making our town better.”

Haynes, likewise, said he won’t be a candidate for the appointment.

“There’s other potential things for me, but not that,” he said.