Voters will take to the polls Aug. 21 for a pair of runoff elections. The respective ballot counts will determine whether an incumbent holds on to his seat in one race and which of the political first timers in the other contest becomes the newest face on a board facing budget and image woes.
H. Paul Womack is looking to hold on to his District 4 seat by turning away challenger Jim McMahan.
McMahan, a former investment advisor turned mortgage professional, indicated that what transpired in his and this election cycle’s other two school board races suggests change is in the air.
“A majority of voters voted for non-incumbents,” McMahan said. “People wanted some new leadership … going forward, I hope for a similar outcome.”
The general primary and nonpartisan election saw one incumbent — District 2’s Don McChesney — summarily ousted and District 8 colleague Pamela Speaks stave off a similar fate in a race whose total vote count dwarfed that of the other three contests.
Womack took 47 percent of the District 4 vote, falling short of the required 50 percent plus one vote to win outright.
“We’re doing everything possible to appeal to parents and taxpayers as to who will best represent the DeKalb County School System going forward,” said Womack. “This is a two-year term, I hope they’ll give me the opportunity to try to finish what I’ve started … look at my background and [compare it] to my opponent’s.”
Womack, citing the system’s diminishing budget in recent years, has called for a criminal probe into the practices of the system’s human resources and finance departments.
Supporters of the two candidates who fell short in the first round of the District 4 race could prove pivotal this time around.
Tom Gilbert and Jim Kinney, who between them garnered 25 percent of the vote, have publicly endorsed McMahan.
“For lack of a better expression, I’m in the trenches,” McMahan said. “I’m in the schools … I see what’s going on day to day.”
In the other DeKalb school board runoff, political newcomers Melvin Johnson and Denise McGill are vying for the District 6 seat vacated by Thomas Bowen.
Johnson, a former longtime school administrator, claimed a 39 percent share of the vote on election day to McGill’s 30 percent.
McGill, whose background entails entrepreneurial and nonprofit work, touted her own front-line experiences as her trump card for round two of her school board race.
“I’ve been hands-on … I’ve been an advocate; I’ve been in the schools every day — PTSA and local school council organizations — for 15 years,” McGill said. “I know I’m not an educator and don’t have a Ph.D. … but I’ve been in the schools working with teachers and students.”
For his part, Johnson has been keying on his extensive time as a school district insider while delivering his appeals to the voting public.
“The DeKalb school system is in crisis,” Johnson said. “It needs a board member with experience to resolve the major issues we’re now faced with; my objective is to work with the other board members to restore excellence in DeKalb.”