Archived News

2023 A Look Back: Not on my Watch Award

Bill Wilke. Bill Wilke. File photo

Newly elected Haywood County Sheriff Bill Wilke stepped into some big shoes following the retirement of longtime Sheriff Greg Christopher, but earlier this year Wilke showed Haywood County, along with some of its most vulnerable residents, that he wears some pretty damn big shoes himself. 

For years, Haywood County Schools didn’t have full coverage from school resource officers — armed deputies from the sheriff’s office. As recently as last year, seven SROs rotated between the county’s 15 public schools, leaving a better than 50/50 chance that a school shooter would find no opposition on school grounds. On the rise for at least a decade, school shootings in 2023 have already outpaced 2022’s record high.

The people of Haywood County are possessed of a heightened sensitivity to the subject; in 2019, Haywood native Riley Howell was killed during what was an ultimately successful attempt to stop a shooter in a classroom at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. He was only 21 years old but sacrificed himself to save many lives.

On May 15, Wilke spoke before Haywood County commissioners, in essence selling a 1.5-cent property tax increase to fund the addition of eight dedicated SROs. Now, if you know anything about Haywood County, you know that its residents hate tax increases with the fury of a thousand suns. However, Wilke’s request, which amounted to a whopping $37.50 yearly increase on the average homeowner’s tax bill, garnered nary a peep of dissent and passed unanimously.

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