In 2002, Columbia County's Republican voters gave an overwhelming "yes" to this straw-poll question: "Are you in favor of having the chairman of the Columbia County Board of Education elected by a countywide vote?"
Voters now have the opportunity to fulfill that wish by electing the board chairman for the first time. When voters cast their ballots, we recommend doing so for LAWRENCE HAMMOND.
Among the three candidates vying for this seat, Hammond represents a new voice and a firm middle ground. Regina Buccafusco is an outstanding trustee, but citizens expecting change with the pending selection of a new superintendent might not be comfortable with someone so closely tied to the current board. Lee Muns is the polar opposite: A man with occasional good ideas, but whose destructive former tenure on the board proved him unable to build coalition or consensus.
Hammond has never served on the board. But his public and civic life, as well as his financial training, have given him abundant preparation for service as a member of the county's most important policy-making body.
While we disagree with some of Hammond's ideas - he is weak on expansion of elementary foreign language, for example, and seems too willing to reopen the divisive school calendar debate - he understands his role is to provide oversight of a government body with a $151 million budget, not to micromanage the county's professional educators.
The new chairman clearly will be a transitional figure. The creation of the post set the position's first term at just two years. Those two years will coincide with the retirement of long-time Superintendent Tommy Price and the hiring of a new superintendent.
Hammond, with a track record of goal-setting and consensus-building, is a good choice for steering the Columbia County School Board through this important phase. We recommend his election.
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