This Beaufort Co. school board candidate drove trucks to supplement his teacher pay

Stew Butler
Stew Butler

On the last day to file for candidacy in the Beaufort County Board of Education Nov. 6 election, a former teacher and businessman added his name to the mix.

Stew Butler filed Wednesday morning for the District 5 seat, which represents Burton, Callawassie Island and portions of Beaufort.

Butler, 77, was the 20th candidate to file for a seat on the board — making this the highest number of contenders for school board in a long while.

Also, for the first time in recent years, not a single candidate will go uncontested.

In District 5, Butler will be will be up against three opponents — retired Army officer Richard Geier, former U.S. Army helicopter pilot Ray Johnson and marriage and family therapist Sarah Stuchell.

Throughout his career, Butler spent seven years teaching English and history in both public and private schools in Pennsylvania, Maryland and South Carolina.

When he couldn’t make enough money as a teacher, he began driving a truck on the side. Eventually, he stopped teaching and moved over to the trucking industry full time, he said.

Based on his firsthand experience, Butler said, his primary focus as a school board member would be to increase teacher pay.

“If you want a good teacher, you’ve got to pay for that teacher,” he said. “Because this area is expensive to live in, and you’ve got to pay them a wage that they can live decently.”

Butler moved to Beaufort County about 22 years ago when he founded the car dealership Butler Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram. He left for a few years to teach in Orangeburg, but returned to the area more than 10 years ago.

If elected, he said, his background in both education and business will help guide his decisions on the board.

“I think my business background will help, because in business you’ve got to make a profit. And in education, the profit you make is turning out good students,” he said.

Butler lives on Callawassie Island with his wife, Audrey. They have four grown children.

Who else has filed?

Seven of the board’s 11 seats are up for grabs in the November election:

District 1: Seat held by board member Earl Campbell is up for election in 2020.

District 2: Longtime Lady’s Island resident Terry Thomas filed in April. Board member David Striebinger filed for re-election in July.

District 3: Board member Cynthia Gregory-Smalls filed for re-election in March. St. Helena businessman William Smith filed in mid-July. Mortician Buryl Garnett Sumpter and Gullah Geechee performing artist Natasha D. Robinson filed in late July.

District 4: Board member Joseph Dunkle filed for re-election in early July. Retired Beaufort County educator Tricia Fidrych filed in mid-July.

District 5: Two retired military men — Richard Geier and Ray Johnson — filed to run in March. Sarah Stuchell, a licensed marriage and family therapist, filed in July. Stew Butler filed in August. Board member Geri Kinton is not running for re-election.

District 6: Seat held by board member John Dowling is up for election in 2020.

District 7: Hilton Head native Rachel Wisnefski and Chris Davey, parts and service manager at Grainger Nissan of Beaufort, filed to run in July. Board member Evva Anderson filed in August for re-election.

District 8: Former educators John Eddy and Cathy Robine have both filed for the race. Board member Mary Cordray sis not running for re-election.

District 9: Seat held by board member Christina Gwozdz is up for election in 2020.

District 10: Peter Kristian, the manager of Hilton Head Plantation, filed for the seat in late June. Melvin Campbell, a longtime retired educator and native islander, filed in August. Board member Bill Payne is not running for re-election.

District 11: Seat held by board member JoAnn Orischak is up for election in 2020.

To find which board district represents you, visit