Two new and two returning members win seats on school board

Published 11:14 am Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Rowan Salisbury’s Board of Education will look a little different as newcomers Travis Allen and Dean Hunter defeated incumbents Kay Wright Norman and L.A. Overcash in Tuesday’s election. Dr. Richard Miller won re-election and Jean Kennedy, who ran unopposed, will also be returning to office.

“There are going to be some big changes,” Allen said.

When votes first started trickling in, each of the incumbents held fairly strong leads, but about halfway through the evening, the tide began to turn.

As each challenger rose to the top, cheers erupted around the Board of Commissioners’ meeting room, where candidates and their supporters gathered to watch the votes roll in.

Allen, an investigator for the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, took seat four from Wright Norman, who has served for the past 20 years.

In unofficial results, Allen received 17,495 votes — or 52.68 percent of the votes cast — to Norman’s 15,627 votes, or about 47 percent.

Seat four represents the county’s western schools, including West Rowan middle and high schools and Cleveland, Hurley, Mount Ulla and Woodleaf elementary schools.

“We worked really hard,” Allen said. “We knew it would come down to 5 percent either way.”

“Money cannot buy our schools,” he added. “I want to look through the filter of putting our students and teachers first.”

Norman could not be reached for comment.

Hunter brought in 14,011, or nearly 45 percent of the votes, for seat two, which represents the county’s southern schools — South Rowan High School, Corriher-Lipe Middle School and China Grove, Enochville, Landis and Millbridge elementary schools.

Hunter ran against incumbent Overcash, who received 42.13 percent of the vote with 13,183, and Lawrence Helms, who garnered 4,001 votes, or 12.79 percent.

Hunter said he was “a little stressed” up until the very end. “I think it was more difficult than I thought, overcoming an incumbent.”

Hunter said he believes his victory is due to people’s dissatisfaction with the “direction of the current board.”

“I just want to see the board begin to make decisions that are in the best interests of students and their education,” he said, adding that he feels recent financial decisions, especially some concerning the central office, were made to benefit outside interests rather than students.

“I’m not opposed to a central office. I never have been, but priorities should be on the teachers, the schools,” he added.

“Naturally, I’m disappointed,” Overcash said.

“We’ve got a lot of projects that I hope they don’t stop,” he said, adding that he hopes the new board members make decisions that are “good for the kids in the county.”

Miller, the board’s current chairman, received 16,023 votes, or 50.21 percent of the votes cast. He faced two challengers: Phil Hardin, who got 12,845 votes, or 40.25 percent, and W.F. Owens, who received 2,915 votes, or 9.13 percent.

Miller represents the district’s northern schools — North Rowan elementary, middle and high schools, Hanford Dole Elementary and Henderson Independent High School — as the seat one representative.

“I felt that all the candidates were viable and that I would run on the record I’ve established,” Miller said.

He added that he believes being out in the precincts and talking with voters one-on-one were deciding factors in the race.

“I’d like to basically see us continue the initiatives we’ve started,” he said, emphasizing literacy as a priority.

Although he lost against Miller, Hardin said he’s excited to see the board take on a more conservative and transparent tone.

“I’m pretty pleased with the total outcome of the election with Travis and Dean getting on the board,” he said.

He added that he hopes to see Josh Wagner become the new chairman of the board.

Jean Kennedy, a retired teacher, was unopposed for seat six and received 2,6011 votes — 97.88 percent. There were 564 write-in votes cast.

Seat six represents an L-shaped portion of the county that runs through downtown Salisbury and into East Spencer. Kennedy lives on Grady Street in Salisbury.