School board election set for Saturday

Published 9:00 pm Friday, March 2, 2012

On Saturday, voters will select a new Brookhaven School Board trustee to fill the seat Carl Aycock has held for 15 years.

     In the race to replace Aycock are Lea Barrett and Erin Smith.

     The election will occur from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Brookhaven High School gymnasium.

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     Eligible voters must live within the Brookhaven School District but outside the city limits. The circuit clerk’s office estimates approximately 4,300 registered voters are entitled to participate.

     Barrett served as district superintendent for six years, retiring in March of 2011. Smith holds several posts at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, including academic counselor and disability support services coordinator.

     Board trustees serve five-year terms. Of the five-member board, three are appointed by city aldermen and two are elected by residents within the district but outside the city limits.

     In the most recent school board election in 2007, voter turnout was low with only 145 ballots cast.

     School board attorney Bob Allen has estimated 400 votes would be a good turnout for this year’s election.

     Turnout was much higher in 1997 when Aycock was first elected. More than 900 votes were cast in both the election and runoff.

     Since only two candidates are running in Saturday’s election, a runoff is not possible.

     The school board rotates officers and Aycock most recently served as board president. Board member Karen Braden will now take up the office of president.

     Aycock’s residence is moving into the city limits and out of the area his seat represents. Therefore, he is ineligible to seek a fourth term.

     With Aycock stepping down, both Barrett and Smith have said they expect turnout to be higher than the last election. Both candidates have also identified the lack of an incumbent in the race as motivating their desire to run.

     Barrett has pointed to her experience running the district. She said that experience will be needed on the board during tight budget times.

     Some federal stimulus money will no longer be available to the district beginning this year and Gov. Phil Bryant has discussed education funding changes this year, though no legislative action has been taken yet.

     “Certainly our board has experienced folks who have dealt with the budget before, but with all the changes that are coming to education we need more (experience),” Barrett said last week.

     Smith has said she would provide a much-needed parental voice on the board. If Smith is not elected, then after May no board member will have a child in the Brookhaven School District.

     Smith’s son Bryce, 5, attends Mamie Martin Elementary.

     “I will be a voice for the parents for many years to come,” Smith said.

     Smith also points to her experience running a small business with her husband, Brett, and administering a federal grant at Co-Lin as providing the needed back in budgets.

     Both candidates have said that no matter the election results, the result will be positive.

     “However the election goes will be what the people want,” Barrett said. “That’s what a community is about.”

     Smith pointed to the importance of communication.

     “We don’t all have to agree, but we’ve got to communicate,” Smith said.