Time to meet candidates, then choose
by Donald Conkey
April 03, 2014 12:00 AM | 1463 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With the Georgia primary election just a few short weeks away, May 20, with pre-voting even closer, it is time for voters get to know those individuals who have qualified to run for public office. Who are they? Why are they running? Are they qualified? Do they measure up to serve as a public servant?

And most importantly, do they meet the qualifications for public office God gave to Moses, via Jethro, as recorded in Exodus 18:21-23: “Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men (and women), such as fear God, men (and women) of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: … If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, …[then]all this people shall also go to their place in peace?” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us could return to our homes “in peace” after this year’s elections that begin May 20?

And yes, here in Cherokee County, as elsewhere in the state, a small percentage of the eligible voters will select from amongst the candidates those who will rule over 100 percent of us in our local and state governments and those who will represent us in Washington, D.C., in the House of Representatives and the Senate for the next two, four or six years.

And what is the best way to get to know the candidates? Attend open forum and listen to them answer questions posed by voters. Various organizations sponsor such forums throughout the county and invite candidates for the various offices to come and speak before their groups.

For instance, last week, I attended Mike Byrd’s bi-weekly breakfast in Towne Lake and met the three candidates running for the Cherokee County Commission, Post 4. At the forum sponsored by the Cherokee County Republican Women, the group affiliated with the State Republican Federation, I listened to six of the eight candidates running for the Cherokee County School Board.

After the Byrd breakfast, I talked with George McClure, one of Cherokee County’s movers and shakers, and asked him who would best represent the county from Post 4. He told me he believed all three would represent Post 4 well, but then he said something very profound. He said he was grateful to the three candidates for running, and though he thought they had different strengths and weaknesses, each was well qualified and would do a good job for the county.

I agreed. Now I have to make my choice.

There was a much larger attendance at the Cherokee County Republican Women’s forum held in the Old Court House in Canton because they had invited all eight candidates running for four of the six school board seats. Six candidates accepted and participated in the forum. Watching and listening to these six candidates helped me better understand how important the School Board is here in Cherokee County. There are good candidates running but voters must decide who to vote for.

The Cherokee County School Board is perhaps the most important board in Cherokee County because it’s the largest employer in the county, with more than 4,000 employees; it also oversees the largest budget in the county, nearly $300 million while educating nearly 40,000 students.

At Thursday night’s forum, candidates for the contested four school districts introduced themselves, answered questions and then explained why they felt they deserved the voter’s vote. It was a very informative meeting.

Under the leadership of its current superintendent, since the late 1990s, the Cherokee County school system has become one of the top school systems in Georgia as well as in the nation with its students consistently ranking among the top in test scores nationwide.

But this has not been achieved without controversy in recent years. With an aging superintendent nearing retirement, one of the major challenges for the school board will be to find a replacement as qualified, “but hopefully less polarizing,” as one candidate described the current superintendent, to continue building a school system that has brought acclaim and attention to Cherokee County, a school system that parents want their children to be in.

Another challenge the board will face will be how to deal with the growing encroachments of the federal government. They have already learned that once they become hooked on federal grants, the feds control the agenda. Taking Common Core grants is proving this to be very true.

Get to know all the candidates. Then choose the most qualified.

Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.
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