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OUR VIEW: School board results decisive

There were 11 contested local races on the ballots Tuesday night in Troup County, but in the long lead up to the election, the four school board races had created the most buzz in our community. 

On Election Day, voters spoke loud and clear in who they want representing them on the school board moving forward.

Although the election has not yet been certified, the three incumbents — Cathy Hunt, Joe Franklin and Brandon Brooks — won by an overwhelming majority on Tuesday night. Ferrell Blair, who wasn’t an incumbent, but campaigned with the current board members, won in a tightly contested race.

Hunt, Franklin, and Brooks won 66 percent of the vote in their races, so two-thirds of voters in their districts voted them back into office. If you throw Blair in, the four winners received 63 percent of the vote. 

That’s a decisive margin and a blow for TRACER, which intended to flip the board in its favor and flip all four open seats to candidates who were in favor of eliminating school property taxes for senior citizens aged 62 and older. To the winners, we say congratulations. Voters felt confident enough to give you another four years helping lead our system, now they’ll expect results. 

Hunt, Franklin and Brooks will all be going into their second terms on the school board. The board’s main function is to evaluate the job of the superintendent, and during the last four years they’ve removed and hired a new superintendent.  Our hope is that in four years Hunt, Franklin and Brooks can point to hiring Shumate — and other tough decisions they made during their first term on the board — as the building blocks for success they had in their second terms. 

We also think the candidates who came up short in this election should hold their heads high. While it’s clear the majority of voters did not want a TRACER-endorsed candidate on the board, it’s also true that TRACER completely changed the outlook of this school board race. 

This is a group of senior citizens who banded together just a few months ago to oppose a common problem, and soon found themselves in the spotlight and heavily involved in four school board elections. That’s what America is all about, and it speaks to the strength of citizens working together to have their voices heard. TRACER’s participation also greatly impacted voter turnout.

Four years ago, Kirk Hancock (in the seat Blair won Tuesday) and Brooks ran unopposed to get on the school board. Hunt received just 523 votes before winning in a runoff, and Franklin had 698 votes. In 2016, the voter turnout for the school board elections was 26.2 percent with 4,789 total votes cast.

On Tuesday, the voter turnout in school board elections was nearly 40 percent, with 9,617 votes cast. That’s more than double the number from 2016 in the exact same races. 

TRACER has vowed that it’s not going anywhere, and we think that’s a good thing. When citizens are vested in and involved in local government and/ or school board operations, that’s always a positive thing. More engagement equals more discussion, and more constructive discourse on how we can improve our community and our schools is very much needed.  

TRACER also has another challenge ahead, as partial tax relief for seniors will be on the ballot in November. It’s hard to say if voters viewed senior tax relief as the reason to vote against the four TRACER endorsed candidates, but if it was, it appears a lot of campaigning will be necessary for that measure to pass in the fall. This was a long, drawn-out campaign season, and if you followed the social media commentary, there were some raw emotions displayed on both sides, which is to be expected when we’re dealing with something as important as the education of our children.

But now that the election is over, it’s time for us to put campaign season in the rearview mirror and figure out how to all work together to make the Troup County School System the best it can be for our current and future students.