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Wilke to become next Haywood Sheriff

Bill Wilke will be Haywood County's first new sheriff in nearly a decade. Bill Wilke will be Haywood County's first new sheriff in nearly a decade. Donated photo

Private investigator, retired Army colonel, former Asheville police officer Bill Wilke will be sworn in as the first elected Republican sheriff in Haywood County since at least the early 1960s — if not ever — after a convincing victory Tuesday night.

“Thank you for your trust, I’m honored by it and continue to serve with leadership, integrity and strength for my tenure, however long that is," Wilke said. 

Wilke had run against Democrat Bobby Suttles back in 2010, losing by almost 7 points, but a lot’s changed since then.

Haywood has grown increasingly more Republican with each election, with current incumbent Greg Christopher, a conservative Democrat, remaining in office as something of a rarity. It was Christopher’s popularity across party lines that not only kept him in office for a decade, but also prevented any Republican opponents from challenging him during that time.

In March, 2021, Christopher announced that he wouldn’t seek reelection and would instead retire after 28 years of service with the State Highway Patrol and almost exactly 10 years as Haywood’s sheriff. Christopher is also a 22-year veteran of the Army National Guard. Without doubt, his shadow will loom large over the office in the coming years.

“I’m greatful for the foundation Greg Christopher has provided in terms of the leadership and experience he’s provided for the last 10 years, which has prepared me to continue that tradition," Wilke said. 

Wilke, who ended up with 60.95% of the vote, defeated Democratic challenger Larry Bryson, who served as interim sheriff for a brief time before Christopher and came away with 39.05%. A native of Balsam, Bryson had been working as a U.S. Marshall until he decided to run for sheriff, but had also held almost every position imaginable in the Haywood Sheriff’s Office over his long career there.

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