Betsy Hawkins

Sumner County Commissioners voted on Monday to appoint Betsy Hawkins to fill the School Board seat held recently by her husband Jim. 

Jim Hawkins, a Gallatin attorney, died Dec. 6 after a brief battle with lymphoma. He was in his first term representing District 6 on the Sumner County Board of Education. 

Betsy Hawkins was one of four people to apply for the vacant seat. Each were given five minutes to address commissioners at the Jan. 27 meeting. 

“I have felt moved to step up and finish the job my husband started,” said Hawkins, a trained paralegal who co-owned her husband’s law office.

Betsy Hawkins attended public schools while growing up in Chattanooga and obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Secondary Education from Centre College. She graduated with honors from the National Center for Paralegal Training in Atlanta in 1984. 

“I spent a lot of years raising three children – all in public schools,” Hawkins told commissioners, adding that she was very active in their school-related activities and in parent teacher organizations. 

Hawkins also said that she had many discussions with her husband about some of the issues facing the school system.  

In a letter to commissioners that accompanied her resume, Hawkins wrote that growth is one of those issues. 

“I pay attention to the local news, and I understand that our schools are stressed to accommodate new growth,” she wrote. “I understand the need to listen to our teachers and staff as well as our parents and students.”

Other candidates for the open seat included Robert Lea, a teacher who served on the Sumner County Commission from 1998-2002; John Genung, a civil engineer who formerly worked for TVA and the city of Hendersonville; and David Matsumoto, a CPA and parent of five children currently enrolled in Sumner County Schools. 

Lea, who submitted his resume last week, withdrew his name from consideration.

County Commissioner Danny Sullivan, a retired principal from Union Elementary Stem and Demonstration School, nominated Mrs. Hawkins to fill the remainder of the seven-month term and encouraged all four candidates to run for the seat in August. 

District 5 Comm. Baker Ring said he has known the Hawkins family for many years. 

“And Betsy is as qualified to hold that seat as her husband was,” said Ring.

Moe Taylor of District 1 nominated Matsumoto. District 11 Comm. Jeremy Mansfield nominated Genung. 

Twenty-two out of the 23 commissioners present voted for Hawkins. Mansfield voted for Genung. 

Betsy Hawkins will serve until the county’s general election on Aug. 6 when school board seats in Districts 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 will be on the ballot. She said she plans to run for the seat in August. 

Matsumoto, who opposed the Board of Education’s two-stage rezoning for his Carellton neighborhood in early 2019, announced in September his plans to run. 

Monday, Feb. 3 is the first day candidates can pick up qualifying petitions. The qualifying deadline is noon on April 2.

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