One school board hopeful acknowledged being nervous at last week’s candidates’ forum hosted by the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce.
Tension among some of the county commission candidates was palpable.
But one office-seeker didn’t need to feel any pressure. Robert Grant is running unopposed for the Effingham County Board of Education’s District 1 seat.
“I keep telling everybody a win by default is still a win,” he said in his introductory remarks.
Grant, running for public office for the first time, was the only candidate to qualify in District 1. Eddie Tomberlin is not seeking re-election to represent the district.
“As I look around the room and drive around the county … I am extremely grateful to be running unopposed,” Grant said with a chuckle.
He has learned, though, that running unopposed can have a downside. Grant said he has needed to remind some people in District 1 that he won’t take office until January.
“Already my phone has been ringing off the hook with suggestions and complaints,” he said. “People think that I’m already on the school board.”
While he’s not yet on the board, Grant already has been involved in school activities as Marlow Elementary’s PTA president. He said Effingham County has “the best schools around” and he is “very proud to tell everyone” that he and his wife Melissa’s two children attend school in the district.
“Go one or two counties away in any direction from here, and we out-perform almost everyone — even some private schools,” he said.
In his four-minute remarks to the audience, Grant made five references to Effingham schools being the county’s “most-valuable asset.” The school system is the county’s largest employer and serves more than 11,000 students, he pointed out.
“Let’s be honest — people don’t move here for the great roads, the shops and the restaurants,” Grant said. “They move here for the schools. That’s why I moved here 10 years ago.”
Grant stated he will be able to devote the time necessary to serve on the school board, as he has with his volunteer work at Marlow Elementary.
“I have an amazing family that’s supporting me in this endeavor,” he said. “I’m lucky that my wife is a very hard worker and has a great job that allows me to put in the volunteer hours that I do.”
Grant’s remarks preceded the question-and-answer segment for the school board’s only contested seat, District 4. Beth Helmly, Faith Jaudon, Ben Johnson and Amanda Phillips are running to succeed Mose Mock, who stepped down to devote more time and energy to his son’s battle with cancer.
Without mentioning any candidates by name, Grant urged District 4 voters to select the person who is best-suited “to make informed and unbiased decisions” on the school board.
“This is not the time to vote for someone because they’re your friend or because they go to your church or because you’ve known them all your life,” he said. “This is the time to pick a person who has no personal ties to the school system, whose position on the school board would not be a conflict of interest, who does not have extreme views and who is not personally connected in other positions of politics in this county.”