LAURINBURG —The public got a chance this week to hear from many of the local candidates running in 2016 at Meet the Candidates event held by the Scotland County Civic League.
One of the most hotly contested races is for school board representing the Stewartsville township. There are a total of nine candidates seeking three open seats. They include three incumbents and five challengers.
Five of those candidates were at Galilee United Methodist Church Tuesday night to talk about themselves and why they are running for office.
The first in the Stewartsville school race to speak was Methodist pastor Robert Macy, who said he was in the race “for the children.”
“We have a challenge folks. When we closed the schools, we abandoned a community, we abandon children,” Macy said. “Money’s not the issue. We’re about to spend $40 million on our schools. I wish I could say it was for our children. I’m not convinced.”
He told the voters they have a chance to make a difference and can do so by voting for him.
Retired Sycamore Lane Middle School principal Rick Singletary said he was running to help improve the future of his six grandchildren and all children.
Singletary feels his experience in education will be an asset to the board.
“I bring to you a voice for all a voice for the staff, a voice for the parents and a voice for the students. Not an agenda, I don’t have an agenda, but I have a commitment,” he said.
Gregory D. Taylor
Taylor, who is also a pastor, teaches the GED program at Richmond Community College. He works with individuals who have dropped out of high school and are trying to get their GED.
“As a school board member I want to head that off on the front end and prepare our students for college and career,” he said.
He challenged everyone to get involved in the political process.
“Change will not come if others will not step up,” he said.
A former resident of New York, she said she taught for 21 years there and substituted once she moved to Scotland County. Her platform is every child deserves an education.
“We should not deny our children. When you closed down the school, you closed down education, you closed the door on our children. You’re telling their parents they don’t have a right to say anything,” she said.
Ackwood-James said she wants to see action and change.
A product of Scotland County Schools, Cromartie, is also currently a member of the school board. He was appointed in February 2015 to the seat vacated by Laurinburg Police Chief Darwin Williams. He works as FCC of NC administration manager.
His platform focuses on improving parental and community involvement in the schools. He also wants to improve the test scores and graduation rates. He thinks this is possible by getting the community and parents more involved.
“We cannot waste money. We cannot close schools just for the sake of closing schools. But I believe, I know, that every board member has an interest of not only for example my child but the other 6,000 plus,” he said.
Also running for the seat, but not at Tuesday’s event were incumbents Jeff Byrd and Pat gates and challenger Dorothy Moore.
For the school board’s open at-large seat, incumbent Charles Brown, a retired Scotland County educator, spoke Tuesday along with challenger Carolyn M. Banks, who is currently a technology teacher at Spring Hill Middle School.
Dr. Carolyn Banks
Banks was a teacher in the Hoke County School System for more 20 years.
“We need 21st century education for 21st century children. They’re different,” she said. “I don’t believe in being fair. I believe in giving a child what they need when they need it at the time that they need it the most.”
She told the crowd they should vote for her because she has a passion for what she does. She also has a vision that every child will be successful.
Brown has been a board of education member for eight years and is also an at large candidate.
“I think children are our future and I look forward to seeing the lights turn on in those children’s eyes when you’re teaching them,” he said.
He told the crowd that school members deal with a lot of issues with a lot of things coming into play. He also stressed how it was to close schools in the district.
The forum also featured candidates for the county Board of Commissioners.
Incumbent commissioner Bob Davis, who represents the Williamson township, is running as a Democrat for a third term on the board of commissioners. He will be challenged in the November general election by Bill Parker of Gibson, a Republican.
“I have done to the best of my ability to do what I think is right. I plan to serve and have served with honesty and integrity the rest of my time,” Davis said.
Davis, who serves on the Economic Development Committee, also talked about job creation.
“It’s a tough market out there and if you are not willing to give you’re not going to get,” he said. He noted they are bringing in jobs, but said it is a slow go.
Davis said his plan is to lower the tax rate. “My goal is to get it below a dollar,” he said. “I plan to represent the county throughout the state if you all choose me to do so again.”
Parker did not attend the forum.
Unopposed, but also attending the candidate event were at-large Commissioners John Alford and Whit Gibson. Incumbent Clarence McPhatter did not attend.
“It feels awfully good when you don’t have any opposition,” Alford said. “I’ve been in politics since 1978 and this is the first time I have been unopposed. That’s what kept me running I guess. Not only was I a commissioner but I hated losing.”
He has served three terms as county commissioner. His platform — jobs. He noted he is committed to helping the Scotland County Economic Development Committee.
“As long as we are bringing in jobs I am for it. But bringing in jobs is not the solution. We have to bring in jobs that are compatible and jobs that our people will end up getting,” he added. “We have 2,000 people unemployed in Scotland County but we have 2,400 people coming from other counties that have jobs in Scotland County.”
He said he is also for affordable housing. He also promised to never vote again to increase the tax rate. His last issue is education. Currently he is unopposed but as he mentioned that does not mean he will be unopposed in the November election.
Gibson said his platform has not changed since he ran in 2012.
“My hope was that Scotland County would gain a vision as to where we would want to be some place in the future. Instead of reacting to things start being a little bit proactive as to where we’re wanting to be,” he said.
He believes there are ways to have cost savings and spend less dollars on the school system but still have a more efficient school system. That is one of his goals while in office.
As far as the tax rate he stated he believes the county commissioners have made decisions that will ultimately prove positive for the tax rate.
His goal is to reduce the tax rate by two cents this year and two cents the next year to get under a $1.
Maria D. Grandy can be reached at 910-506-3171.