New faces, old names qualify for 4 posts on commission, school board

Four fresh faces will be on the ballots in July and November for three of the four available seats on the Fayette County Board of Education and Board of Commissioners.

Charlie Cave of Fayetteville qualified as the only opposition to current Post 4 school board member Bob Todd in the Republican primary.

For the Post 5 school board seat being vacated by Lee Wright, only Sam Tolbert of Fayetteville qualified for the Republicans while Dr. Laura Burgess of Fayetteville qualified as a Democrat in the Post 5 race. That means Tolbert and Burgess will face off in the November general election. Wright chose not to seek re-election, citing “competing personal and professional interests.”

Current Post 5 County Commissioner Eric Maxwell will also face a challenge from Fayetteville’s Allen McCarty in the Republican primary.

The most hotly contested race, however, will be one between well-known political veterans: the three-way battle for the Post 4 county commission seat between incumbent Jack Smith, former Peachtree City Mayor Steve Brown and former County Commissioner Harold Bost.

Qualifying ended at noon Friday, per state law.

Commission Post 5 candidate McCarty, who lives on Lees Mill Road, told The Citizen Friday that he wants to see more transparency in county government and he wants the county to halt the West Fayetteville Bypass and instead pursue an eastern Fayetteville bypass, which he says is “desperately needed.” McCarty said the west Fayetteville bypass is directly affecting the property of one of his neighbors.

“We don’t have an open door policy, at least I feel we don’t, with people,” McCarty said of the current county commission.

McCarty, 67, said no one at the county level seems to be paying attention to “what the citizens want.”

McCarty is a retired broadcast engineering consultant and a 15-year resident of Fayette County. He will face Maxwell in July’s Republican primary, and no Democrats have qualified in the race.

Board of Education Post 5 candidate Sam Tolbert, running as a Republican, is a semi-retired senior manager who is currently an adjunct professor of mathematics at Gordon College in Barnesville.

Tolbert said he decided to run in part because of concerns about the school system’s financial shape.

“I have asked a number of different people who’s manning the budget and I haven’t gotten a good answer yet,” Tolbert said.

Tolbert said his background as a senior manager with “having to mind a budget and be fiscally responsible for expenditures and controls” would be an asset to the school board.

“My thing is I want to look at the financials and try to understand exactly what is required, what is coming in and are we able to meet a reasonable budget that grows as the county grows,” Tolbert said.

Tolbert said he also wants to look at new programs that can be offered to help students, whether by allowing them to start college earlier or adding technical education earlier on “as opposed to just going and spinning their wheels in high school courses.”

Tolbert will face Democratic candidate Dr. Laura Burgess in November’s general election.

Burgess, 56, teaches sociology and psychology at Atlanta Technical College and said she particularly wants to avoid any layoffs among teachers, paraprofessionals and school counselors.

Burgess said if the state has any reserve funds, they should be used now to avoid having a negative effect on students.

“If we lay off teachers and begin to lay off our parapros, and those who maintain the school, then what is going to become of our students and our children?” Burgess said.

Burgess said she wants to maintain the high quality of the Fayette County School System, noting that many families choose to move here based on the schools’ high marks.

Burgess said she also favors mentoring programs for children, and she is an active participant in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

Charlie Cave, 69, who is challenging incumbent School Board Member Bob Todd in the Post 4 race, is a retired banker who has served on several school system committees.

Cave said he decided to run in large part due to the funding cuts from the state level that have led to cutting programs, teacher pay and employee benefits. He hopes to be able to “offer some new ideas” but is quick to compliment the current board for their work, particularly in the past couple of years as the purse strings have tightened.

“The board needs to come together and be more cohesive,” Cave said, adding that even if his ideas are voted down, he will throw his support behind the matters approved by the majority. “I don’t want to add to the problem: I want to be the one to help solve the problems.”

Cave said he realized the current school board members have “taken a beating” in the past two years while “agonizing over the right thing to do.”

“Maybe I can be a new voice or a new eye on making decisions,” Cave said.

Both Cave and Todd are running as Republicans, so their race will be settled in the July 20 primary as there are no Democrats running for the seat.

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