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Three new faces to join school board

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Making a comment at a recent school board meeting is Board Chair Larry Tomlinson, the Ward Ag Center director who received 999 votes to retain his Zone 5 board seat in Thursday’s county election. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
Emphasizing a point at a recent school board meeting is frequently outspoken Zone 1 Member Wayne McNeese, who called Thursday’s county election in which voters retained him “a long, hard day.” JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
Speaking at a recent school board meeting, mostly to announce his candidacy for the Zone 7 seat, is PFP Plant Manager Chad Karl, whom Larry Joe Inman edged by 24 votes in the three-way Zone 7 race. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
Chatting after a recent school board meeting is Tom Sottek, the AstraZeneca sales rep who ran unopposed for the Zone 3 seat being given up by retiring Board Member Don Weathers. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
Johnie Payton – who retired in 2011 after 39 years as a music teacher – announces her candidacy in May to seek the recently created Zone 6 seat on the school board, which she won unopposed. PHOTO SUBMITTED
Attending a recent school board meeting is Larry Joe Inman, winningest women’s coach in the OVC and state title-winning coach of the 1977 Lady Golden Bears. Inman topped the three-way Zone 7 race. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post

In the wake of Thursday's county election, the Wilson County School Board will feature three new faces when the board expands from five members to seven in September.

But the board will also retain two reelected incumbents and two whose seats weren't up for election this year - giving it a mix of three new and four returning members.

Incumbent Wayne McNeese (Zone 1) and Board Chair Larry Tomlinson (Zone 5) both successfully fended off challengers to retain their seats - while in the only contested race to represent the recently created Zones 6 and 7, TSU women's basketball coach Larry Joe Inman prevailed over two other candidates to represent Zone 7.

The new faces winning unopposed were Tom Sottek (Zone 3) - who ran to succeed retiring Board Member Don Weathers - and Johnie Payton, who will represent the new Zone 6.

McNeese: 'Long, hard day'

In Zone 1, incumbent McNeese - account manager and fluid power specialist for AIP - won his race against challenger John Jankowich - senior retail buyer for Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores - by more than 200 votes, 748-545.

McNeese said he really appreciated all the help he had from family and friends who volunteered their time to help him campaign.

"It was a long, hard day," he said. "I want to thank everyone in my family for their help and for putting up with me the last couple of weeks, especially my wife Pam - her support is the most important."

McNeese added that he wants to start looking at both salaries and insurance soon. "We need to be sure we're doing the best thing for our teachers and the best thing financially," he said.

Tomlinson rolls by 654

In Zone 5, Ward Ag Center Director Tomlinson, a retired plant manager from Ford Motor Co.'s Nashville glass plant, easily outpolled challenger Dave Dixon, program director at NeuroRestorative, by more than 650 votes - 999-345.

Tomlinson said he's pleased to continue serving on the school board.

"I'm very happy to get the votes I got," the recipient of almost 1,000 votes commented. "I'm looking forward to the next four years. I think we'll have a good board."

Tomlinson added his thanks to the voters: "I'm thankful for the trust of the people who put me back in there."

Inman edges Karl by 24

In Zone 7, Inman - renowned as the current head coach of the Tennessee State Lady Tigers as well as the former head coach of women's basketball at Eastern Kentucky University and MTSU - won another contest this week.

Inman won the only three-way race by a smaller margin than the other contested races, with 717 votes - edging his closest opponent Chad Karl, plant manager at the PFP die cuts factory, by only 24 votes.

Karl received 693 votes - and retired 35-year teacher Gwynne Queener garnered 426.

Inman, too, was very pleased with his win. "It's great, a great feeling," he said. "I'm excited to get to work with the board members."

His goals are centered on his campaign slogan, which was "Kids First."

"I want to work with the children, the teachers and the parents," Inman commented. "I'm excited to get to work for all those people. My slogan was 'Kids First,' and that's what I want to honor."

Winningest OVC coach

Women's basketball fans may know Inman most recently for taking TSU to the national NCAA tournament in 2014-15 - or they may recognize him as the winningest women's coach in the Ohio Valley Conference, where he's an OVC Hall of Famer.

They may also remember him taking the Lady Raiders from MTSU to the NCAA tourney four consecutive years - 1983-86.

But locally, Inman's involvement with Wilson County Schools has included coaching for them twice, most recently for the Lebanon Blue Devils in 2010 before returning to college coaching at TSU - and back in the 1970s, when he led the Lady Golden Bears of Mt. Juliet to a state championship in 1977.

Music teacher joins board

Meanwhile, in Zones 3 and 6, where both candidates were unopposed, Payton received 1,565 votes in Zone 6 and Sottek garnered 1,333 in Zone 3.

Payton - who retired in 2011 after 39 years as a music teacher, including 29 for the Lebanon Special School District (LSSD) - responded to her election by saying, "I'm excited and grateful to the voters for giving me the chance to serve, to make the right decisions for our schools."

Payton also wants to thank those who helped make her who she is today. "I want to thank all the teachers who educated me and encouraged me to go to college," she added.

Sottek - a cardiovascular sales specialist for AstraZeneca - said that while he isn't surprised at winning, he is pleased.

"I'm excited for a chance to be on the new board - excited that we have a minority person and two women," Sottek said. "I'm looking forward to working with the board and learning how best to serve the schools."

Not up for reelection this year were two other incumbent board members, Bill Robinson (Zone 2) and Linda Armistead (Zone 4).

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