YADKINVILLE — Candidates running in the primary election gathered last Tuesday at the Yadkin County Courthouse for an opportunity to address voters in the community. The event is hosted during each election by the Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce. It was standing room only and additional copies of the information packet had to be made. More than 100 area residents attended the forum.
School Board Forum
The event began with the five candidates running for the Yadkin County Board of Education. There are three seats open for the school board, which is a non-partisan office. Those elected on May 6 will take office on June 30. Incumbents Diane Hampton and Howard McKnight are running for re-election. Jamie Dodge, Sam Crews and Tim Weatherman also are running.
The first question posed was mailed to each candidate in advance and gave each person the opportunity to make an opening statement about what was they planned to accomplish if elected to serve as a school board member.
Tim Weatherman said he hoped to see the school system “keep moving forward and making sure our children have the best academic programs that we can provide them.” He also said that “board members should play a leadership role in the community.” Weatherman said that he wanted to see students at all Yadkin County schools have the same opportunities. He noted that only one of the high schools has a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program and that this pathway should be offered at both high schools. He also said that drugs in the high schools were a big problem and he hoped to work with the board of commissioners and the sheriff’s office to “see how we can educate these children to better prepare them for the situation on drugs.”
“The main thing is to put the children first,” Weatherman said.
In Howard McKnight’s opening statement, he said, “We need to continue to provide the best education and opportunities for our students and we need to keep our best teachers and not lose them to surrounding school systems.” He also said, “We need to provide safe and secure schools for our students.” McKnight said that the school system also needed to have more local control, particularly over the school calendar which is dictated by the state.
“The school calendar should be based on the needs of Yadkin County and not what is in the best interest of our coastal counties,” McKnight said. “We also need to work closely with our county commissioners, they may not have a pot of gold they can dip in to, but by prioritizing the school needs we may be able to meet some of those needs and please rest assured that I will continue to do my best in serving the students and parents of our school system.”
Diana Hampton said in her opening statement that she initially ran for the school board in order to get advanced placement classes offered in Yadkin County and she said she would continue to expand upon those programs available to Yadkin County high school students. “I want to challenge our young people,” Hampton said. “I want to set high standards.”
Hampton said she also wanted to push for more local control for the county school system.
“Common Core has been an issue lately, the federal government wanting to dictate standards to us. I think we have high standards for our kids and I would like to see us continue to work with the commissioners on a joint resolution to gain our own control and to keep the federal government out of our business.”
Safety of the students was the focus for candidate Jamie Dodge. “I’d like to see this board work with our board of commissioners and the sheriff’s office to try to get a school resource officer in every school,” Dodge said. “I’d also like to see our bus drivers go through a yearly evaluation and a refresher course. I’d also like to see us work on teacher retention.”
Dodge also said if elected he would like to look at the budget to be sure every effort was being made to make the most of the money available. “We need to pay our teachers a little better,” he said.
Candidate Sam Crews said that his priority if elected to serve, would be to listen to parents, teachers and students and put children first. He said, “It’s my plan to put [children] first as a board member. I’m going to work with the teachers. I’m gong to listen to parents as well, I am a parent and I want to hear what parents have to say. I will have an open heart and open ears to what parents have to say and what teachers have to say.”
Crews also mentioned the issue of local control, he said, “Here on the local level we can take care of our issues better than any federal standards better than any state standards.”
In addition to questions about teachers assistants, school vouchers and common core, each candidate also was asked what they thought would be “real solutions to the problem of bullying in Yadkin County Schools.”
Crews said, “There’s no place” for bullying in schools and that the “bully himself should be punished, should be expelled.”
Weatherman said there should be “zero tolerance” for bullies in schools.
According to McKnight, Yadkin County Schools do not tolerate bullying though he said he knows it goes on. McKnight offered the solution that student-to-student involvement could help deter bullying.
“The key to prevention might be the interaction of other students,” McKnight said. “If students realize what’s going on and they interact with that situation then sometimes the situation can be corrected easier than it could be through other means. I would recommend that if and when those situations take place that perhaps other students be involved, in addition to the teachers and the principal and the staff of that school, to try to resolve that problem.”
Hampton agreed that there was “no tolerance for bullying” and that “fellow students may know about it before the teachers do and during professional development of the teachers we could emphasize bullying detection and also have an anonymous way for other students to report bullying.”
Dodge also agreed that there should be a “no tolerance” policy against bullying and suggested that cameras in the schools could be a possible solution.
“The safety of our children and our students should be first and foremost always,” he said. “We need to educate the kids. If we need to put cameras in the schools, then let’s put cameras in the schools, it’s going to cost money but let’s look at the budget, the safety of the students is first and foremost.”
Clerk of Court Forum
Following the school board, candidates for the office of Clerk of Court, Beth Holcomb and April Mendenhall, addressed the audience. The candidates were asked a series of questions about their qualifications and the duties of the office of Clerk of Court, including what their favorite duty was and what they disliked most about the clerk’s office.
Holcomb said that her favorite thing about working in the clerk of court’s office was all the people she had met.
“I’ve got to meet a lot of people. I’ve got to work with some great lawyers, judges, DAs, assistant DAs. I’ve learned a lot in my years and I guess that’s my favorite is meeting the people and helping the public,” she said.
Mendenhall said her favorite thing was working with juveniles who come through the court system, “to try to give them a boost and going in the right direction.”
When asked what they disliked most about the clerk’s office, Holcomb said she “hated seeing people get in trouble.”
“I hate that I am seeing children in trouble of the parents that were when I first started working in the clerk’s office.” She also said it was hard to watch people cry who were at the clerk’s office taking care of paperwork after the death of a loved one.
“When the women cry that’s one thing, but when the men cry, it really kills me,” she said.
Mendenhall agreed that seeing the young people who were in trouble was the worst part of the job.
“Just seeing the juveniles that are coming through and you know that you have their parents in criminal court. It’s just a revolving door,” she said. “It’s sad because that’s the only thing that they know and I would like to get something set where we could change that so the children would know there’s a different direction they could go down.”
County Commissioner Forum
The four men running in the Republican Primary for Yadkin County Board of Commissioners also addressed the public at the forum last week. There are no Democrats running.
Incumbents Gilbert Hemric, Frank Zachary, Marion Welborn and newcomer Bryan Wyatt answered questions about they they were running for the office and what plans and improvements that hope to see in the county if elected.
Each candidate was asked what he thought the biggest problem was that he would have to address if elected.
Zachary said the cost of needed intrastructure for water and sewer was the biggest challenge the county is facing.
“One of our problems is that Yadkin County is so far behind, ” Zachary said. He said the board was trying to get the money to fund needed infrastructure projects in the county.
Wyatt said getting and keeping tax money in the county.
“That’s what I want to work on,” he said.
Infrastructure for the county would be vital to “get industry and jobs” here, said Welborn.
Hemric agreed that the lack of infrastructure was the biggest problem for Yadkin County.
“We are trying and working on some of it now and we’ll just keep trying and a few years down the road we’ll have the infrastructure in place to draw the industry that we are looking for,” he said.
In honor of the forum being held on Earth Day, the candidates also were asked, “what Yadkin County could do to help protect its natural resources and beautiful landscape.”
Wyatt suggested instituting a “chain gang.”
“The sheriff’s department got out their inmates, you don’t see much of that anymore. I think they ought to get them out here to clean up the county roads,” he said. “We need to have more of these groups get together and clean up out of the river. We need to keep up with what goes in our river.”
Welborn agreed with Wyatt and said he lived near the landfill and that “Country Club Road, Sugartown Road and Rockford Road is probably the dirtiest three roads in the county because everybody goes to the landfill that way.” He said in the future if recyclables were combined into one bin it could cut down on some of the roadside litter.
Hemric said the many area churches do roadside clean-up and that type of activity should be more encouraged.
“Recycling of materials that are subject to be recycled has been promoted in Yadkin County for many years and will continue to be,” Zachary said. He also said that several county buildings had energy saving systems in place.
“I’m sure there’s more we can do, but I think Yadkin County certainly does its share of that,” he said.
Several other candidates running for office who reside in Yadkin County briefly addressed the audience. The candidate forum was filmed by Yadtel’s Yadkin Valley TV and can be seen in its entirely on channel 7.
Kitsey E. Burns can be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.