CLEVELAND, Ga. — The candidate forum scheduled for 6 pm in Cleveland Monday could be one of the most interesting and entertaining of this political season in light of last week’s joint guideline issued by the U.S. Education and Justice departments.
There are only three contested races on the ballot in White County’s May 24 General Primary election. School board races are generally considered a “down ballot” race but not this year.
When the Obama Administration issued guidelines last week that dictated local school districts to allow transgender students to use the restroom and dressing room that matches their gender identity, school board races took on a greater importance. The guidelines do not carry the force of law but it is accompanied by a stern, if unspoken, threat that a school district’s failure to comply could lead the federal government to withhold its federal funding.
Tonight’s attendees will be permitted to ask questions of the candidates and they are certain to want to know where incumbent Kendyl Brock Hunter and challenger Missy Jarrard stand on this important issue.
Proponents of the guideline say there is no room in schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students.
But opponents counter that it is up to Congress to write laws not the Obama Administration and that this is the kind of issue that should be decided by local school boards, communities, students and teachers.
Hunter is in her third term as chairman. An occupational therapist by profession and owner of Benchmark Physical Therapy, she is also a member of the Georgia School Board Association’s (GSBA) Board Chair Advisory Council.
Jarrard is a former educator with 23 years of experience, including nine years as a teacher at the elementary and middle school level and 14 years as a School Counselor. She holds a Master’s Degree in School Counseling from the University of Georgia
In the race for White County Sheriff, incumbent Neal Walden is being challenged by Aaron Autry.
Walden is a veteran lawman with 37 years of service to White County. He has been the county’s sheriff since 1991 and is past president of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association and Chairman of the Appalachian Drug Task Force.
Autry has 22 years’ experience, including stints with the City of Cleveland, Hall County White County and the City of Atlanta. He has worked with the North Georgia K-9 Task Force and is SWAT certified.
In the county commission race, Shawn Henderson is taking on Incumbent District 4 County Commissioner Craig Bryant.
The 40-year-old Henderson is owner of Henderson Family Insurance, an Independent insurance agency and an officer in the Georgia Army National Guard. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of North Georgia and will earn a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership this month.
Bryant is an insurance agent He said he’s proud to have served on a Board of Commissioners that has built a new firehouse, soccer complex, road department and jail and has enlarged the senior center, added three new firetrucks and four full time firefighters.
Each candidate will be allowed a two-minute opening statement and brief closing and they have agreed to answer questions from the audience.