11/2/2021 7:30:00 PM School Board Approves New Districts For Elections
Wayne Howard Reporter
No surprise! The Lincoln County Board of Education approved a new map of election districts for the school board at a special meeting Tuesday evening. Also, no surprise, they approved Plan #2, the one submitted by chairman Mark Mullen and drawn by former County Commissioner Martin Oakes; and no surprise, the vote for approval was 4-3. Heather Rhyne, Mullen, Tony Jenkins and Christina Sutton voted in favor of the plan, presented as Option Two. Myra Heavner, Joan Avery and Todd Wulfhorst voted 'no.'
Wulhorst had submitted a third possible plan at the Oct. 12th board meeting. The one known as Plan One was prepared by County Planning Director Andrew Bryant. The schools received public comments on the proposals, but only 19 people responded. A dozen of those favored Option One, two favored Option Two, and two favored the third option submitted by Wulfhorst.
Heavner spoke before the vote and said she was disappointed that the School Board is being politicized. The General Assembly passed a new law introduced by both Rep. Jason Saine and Sen. Ted Alexander, that makes school board elections in Lincoln County partisan beginning next year. Heavner noted correctly that for anyone who isn't affiliated with a political party to get on the ballot, they'll have to secure signtures of well over two thousand registered voters on a petition.
The change in the law was pushed by former GOP chairman Fred Jarrett, who also asked County Commissioners, all Republican, to pass a resolution in favor of the partisan elections.
Currently, while the board is nominally non-partisan, Heavner and Avery are the only two Democrats on the board. The new map approved Tuesday will mean that Avery won't be able to file for the District Two seat she now holds since the new map moves her residence out of that district.
Tony Jenkins, Mullen and Rhyne all spoke saying that anyone can run for the school board regardless of where they live since two seats are at-large. Jenkins holds one of those at-large seats, so if Avery wants to file in December, she'd have to run for the seat Jenkins holds.
The change in election districts was necessary because the western part of Lincoln County lost population from 2010 until 2020, but instead of just increasing districts one and two in size, the board chose to redraw districts in a way that will make it more difficult for Avery to run, possibly eliminating one of the two Democrats on the board.
The election districts are not related to school attendance districts.