HUNT COLUMN: Please vote, but do your homework first

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, May 8, 2024

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Two weeks from now, when my next column appears, the primary election will be in the rearview mirror. So now is the time to say, “Please vote.” We have many interesting and important contested races on the ballot.

Since we’re in the middle of a three week early voting period (including this Saturday), there is no excuse not to get to the courthouse and get this done if getting to your precinct on May 21 is going to be a problem.

But please go prepared. For a great starting point, Google “GA My Voter Page” where you can quickly enter some personal identifiers and find all kinds of pertinent information including your county commission and school board districts. Best of all, you can view a sample ballot. In a primary, you’ll have to choose a Democrat, Republican, or Non Partisan ballot. Not one of these ballots will have every single race you’ve been receiving mail about on it, so if there’s a particular partisan race in which you’re most interested, make sure to get the ballot where you’ll find it.

Now you can really dig in. Google your candidates. Look them up on social media and YouTube. The Chamber of Commerce recently sponsored some excellent forums that were recorded and can be found on the Dailys News website and Facebook page. Bee TV has also taped one-on-one local candidate interviews. These videos can help you get a real sense of who each candidate is and what they stand for. But watching all of them can take hours and hours, so be selective.

No matter which ballot you choose, the school board race (if your district has one this time) will be found all the way down ballot, because it is non-partisan. As these races hold special interest for me, I beg you to do your homework.

Maureen Downey, the AJC’s excellent education writer, had this to say about school board elections: “The key considerations for choosing Board of Education members are [1] a historic and positive involvement with the schools; [2] an understanding [that] their role is oversight, not daily management; and [3] a commitment to improving outcomes for kids, not just their own or a select few.”

I’ll elaborate on those important points. A good candidate should have some kind of experience with and knowledge of the Troup County School System. Someone who has not set foot in any of our schools or meetings in recent years (except to complain) or who bashes our system based on limited knowledge or who pays no attention to modern trends in public education should make you wonder why they suddenly want to oversee policy and approve budgets.

Second, beware of anyone who promises they will step right up and make all kinds of changes once they’re elected. The first thing they’ll have to do is get intense training on what kinds of things are and are not within their purview. They cannot walk right into schools or right up to employees and tell them what to do. The board must maintain healthy lines of communication with the superintendent, who is their only employee, and who has the skills and knowledge to manage the system.

Third, you must consider motive. If a candidate is entrenched in a special interest group, a political group, or their own interests (including single issues such as tax breaks, banning books, or getting revenge for something they perceive as an injustice against their own child), give them a hard pass.

Who has a heart for kids? Who has real world experience that can contribute to the decision-making of the board? Who can work well with others? Find the answers, and please vote at this critical juncture in community leadership.