Terry Hutchinson appeared early this morning to have won a tight, four-way race for the open at-large seat on the Rock Hill school board, according to unofficial election results.
Dan Ballou and Wayne Wingate were close behind with Tyrie Rowell trailing in a race for school board Chairman Bob Norwood’s seat.
“That is awesome,” Hutchinson said upon hearing the news. “It’s been a long day.”
Still, he added, “I want to hold off on any real outpouring of joy until it’s official.”
Incumbents Ann Reid, Mildred Douglas and Walter Brown, each running unopposed, were re-elected.
Each of York County’s four school boards had open seats.
Seven candidates were running for three seats on the Fort Mill school board.
Incumbent Scott Patterson and newcomers Pam Martin and Tom Audette were the top vote-getters – leaving incumbent Chantay Bouler apparently ousted – according to unofficial returns.
In a tight race for Seat 3 on the Clover school board, Liz Johnson defeated Ginger Marr.
Johnson was appointed to the board last year to replace a board member who resigned. Melanie Wood Wilson and Franklin Pendleton ran unopposed.
In York, incumbent Chris Revels fended off a challenge from Robert Bostic and held on to Seat 3.
Incumbent Melissa Ramsey beat challenger Austin Dawkins and kept Seat 5.
York school board incumbents Chris Stephenson and Al Johnson were unopposed.
The Rock Hill and Fort Mill races were the most hotly contested.
In public forums and interviews, the four candidates running in Rock Hill each pitched himself as the seven-member board’s missing voice.
Ballou was the skeptical parent. Wingate touted his experience as a dedicated volunteer who has run businesses and been involved with schools for decades.
Hutchinson, an automotive technician, cast himself as an outsider, a father with “no ties” to the district who would bring fresh eyes and the troubleshooting traits that make him a successful technician.
Rowell, a 22-year-old South Pointe High graduate, said he was the youthful voice the district’s governing board has long needed but never had.
Rock Hill voter Louie Mills found all four appealing, but went with Hutchinson.
“Any of them would have been good,” she said, but “sometimes you just get a feeling that a candidate’s values line up with yours.”
For Stephen Cox, Ballou, whom Cox knows, was the clear choice.
“He’s just a very effective and thoughtful problem-solver,” Cox said. “That’s what distinguishes him from the others.”
Andrea Lesnick, who moved to Rock Hill from Michigan a few years ago, favored Wingate.
“I like his values,” she said.
“It’s not a song-and-dance or a smoke screen.”
The three candidates leading the race weren’t political newcomers.
Ballou, former chairman of the York County Democratic Party, ran unsuccessfully for the S.C. House against state Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, in 2002.
Wingate said he ran unsuccessfully for the state House in 1993 as a Democrat. In 2010, Wingate served as campaign spokesman for then-U.S. Rep. John Spratt, D-York.
Hutchinson ran unsuccessfully in the 2010 Republican primary for the District6 seat on the York County Council.
The school board race was Rowell’s first run for political office.
The school board race is nonpartisan.
Ballou and Wingate said they now consider themselves independents.
Ballou raised and spent more money campaigning, according to the most recent campaign finance records available.
He raised $4,475, records show.
Hutchinson raised $1,350.
The official winner will be sworn in at the start of the school board’s Nov. 12 meeting at York Road Elementary.
Norwood, who has been on the board for 16 years, is retiring.
The Rock Hill school board’s primary duties are hiring and evaluating the superintendent, setting policy and debating which initiatives the district of nearly 18,000 students should adopt.
The board also decides the district’s annual budget.
Board members receive a salary of $600 a month.
The board chair receives $700 a month.