Cooter elected to city school board Sams, Richardson to return to board

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  A first time political candidate won a seat to the Elizabethton Board of Education, while the sitting board chairman narrowly avoided defeat to capture his third term, according to unofficial city election results Tuesday.

Matt Cooter

  Matthew Cooter grabbed 1,933 votes to win one of three at-large seats to the school board.
  Incumbent board member and Vice-Chairman Judy Richardson led the field with 2,101 votes while Cooter finished second in unofficial balloting. Sitting board chairman incumbent Dr. Bob Sams grabbed the third seat by less than 40 votes over his nearest challenger.
  "I am excited about it; the whole process was exciting," Cooter said of his election to the board. "I thought the votes would be spread out. I didn't know how it was going to turn out."
  It turned out very close.

Robert Sams

  Sams picked up 1,803 votes - a mere 37-vote advantage - over fourth-place finisher Pat Bellamy who received an impressive 1,766 votes. Rita Bullock Booher also ran strong finishing with 1,753 votes only 50 votes behind Sams. Booher won the East Side precinct.
  Bellamy finished second in the High School precinct and garnered 783 votes in early voting results.
  Candidates William "Sonny" Hunt finished sixth with 1,695 votes while Connie Baker received 1,471 votes.
  City residents cast ballots in eight precincts of Courthouse, Central, Hunter, East Side, Happy Valley, Harold McCormick, High School, and West Side. No ballots were cast in the board race at Hunter.

Judy Richardson

  Richardson won early voting with 967 votes and tied Baker for the most votes at Harold McCormick with 219 votes. Cooter won the Happy Valley, High School, and West Side precincts and finished second in early voting behind Richardson with 864 votes.
  Sams built a lead in early voting with 861 votes but did not win any voting precinct. He finished second at the Courthouse precinct.
  Cooter said Tuesday night he hopes to bring a youthful perspective to the board and intends to work at keeping the system's history of academic success going strong. He also feels the board needs to work at keeping administrative and educational professionals in place to keep the system stable.
  "We need to stop the turnstile there and nurture what we have," he said.
  Incumbent board member Dr. Jonathan Bremer did not seek a third council term.
  Richardson taught school in the Carter County School System and Elizabethton City Schools for 32 years before her retirement. She was elected to her first term on the board in 2000.
  Sams was elected to his first term on the board in 1996 and his second term in 2000. He graduated from Elizabethton High School in 1957 and from East Tennessee State University. He earned his optometry degree from the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis. He operates a private optometry practice in Elizabethton.
  All election results are unofficial until certified by the Carter County Election Commission office.