The only competitive local races some Columbia County voters will see in Tuesday's midterm election are for the District 2 seat on the school board and a Harlem City Council seat.
Facing off in District 2, which covers much of the Martinez area, will be longtime education activist Kristi Baker and attorney Carl Schluter.
As the daughter of a Clemson University professor, Baker said she understands academia and the role research plays in the education process.
Baker said she would dedicate the time needed to learn about issues facing the school system and their potential solutions.
"I want to know why they (the school board) do things and why decisions are made," Baker said. "I want to find the right path, academically."
As a mother of three children in the school system, Baker heavily involved herself with their schools. She served on the school councils for Martinez Elementary, Evans Middle and Evans High schools, on a parent advisory committee for the system's gifted learning program and on the Superintendent's Parent Advisory Committee. Those volunteer experiences, Baker said, introduced her to teachers, administrators and central office officials.
As a school board member, Baker said one of her greatest strengths would be as a liaison between parents and those officials.
Schluter, whose oldest daughter is in kindergarten at Bel Air Elementary, said that his strength is finance and that he would be an asset on a board that controls a $165 million annual budget.
"It really fits with what I like to do and what I'm good at," he said.
Though he works as an attorney, Schluter earned his bachelor's degree in finance from USC Aiken.
Schluter said school board members have told him that they defer to board member Wayne Bridges, an accountant, on budget matters. A second person is needed, Schluter said, to offer another perspective on how the school system spends taxpayer dollars.
"The main thing is the budget," he said. "We need to look at everything with new eyes ... to key in on what benefits our students and our teachers."
As a volunteer with Georgia Legal Services and a member of the board of directors for Safehomes of Augusta, Schluter also said he is practiced in developing policies.
"Who better than an attorney" to understand the legal ramifications of school board policy making? Schluter asked.
On such a controversial issue as eliminating some middle school sports to save money, Baker and Schluter both said they would work to save athletic programs. However, both reserved final judgment until the results of a sports study currently under way are in.
With the understanding that not every Columbia County graduate is college bound, both said that they would like to see more vocational preparatory programs so that graduates are ready for the work force.
The District 2 campaign once was a three-way race among Baker, Schluter and Lee Benedict, but Benedict backed out to spend more time with his ailing son. His name will remain on the ballot.
District 2 board member Mickie Blackburn chose not to run for re-election.
The school board's District 3 seat also was up for re-election this year, but no one took on incumbent Mike Sleeper.
Races for the Columbia County Commission were decided in the July primary: Commission Chairman Ron Cross defeated Brett McGuire and District 4 Commissioner Scott Dean fended off a challenge from David Payne. District 1 Commissioner Ron Thigpen ran unopposed.
The three incumbents face no Democratic opposition in the general election.
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