The race for the District 1 seat on the state board of education — representing all or part of seven counties in southwest Alabama — is crowded. As recently as last week, incumbent Matthew Brown was unopposed, but by Friday’s campaign filing deadline, four additional candidates were in the mix.
District 1 is home to 154 public schools spanning Baldwin, Butler, Conecuh, Covington, Crenshaw, Escambia and Mobile counties with more than 110,000 students and 6,000 teachers.
Brown, appointed to the seat by Gov. Robert Bentley in June, faces a challenge from Adam Bourne, Carl Myrick, Jackie Zeigler and Harry Brown.
Matthew Brown is an advocate for school choice and public charter schools and was the public face of the Educate Baldwin Now campaign against a push from Baldwin County Public Schools for higher taxes to fund a capital campaign in March.
According to Fair Campaign Practices Act reports, he received $9,099 in contributions through Oct. 31, including $1,000 from John Parker and $500 apiece from Robert E. James, William McNair, John White-Spunner, Rick Skinner and Lee Pittman.
“I believe Alabama’s K-12 education system has great potential for improvement,” Matthew Brown said this week. “I unabashedly believe we must disrupt the status quo and embrace bold policies that refocus our attention on ensuring that our young people are graduating from Alabama public schools ready to be independent contributors to our society and economy.”
Myrick is the son of Baldwin Board of Education member Tony Myrick. A teacher in the school system for two years before being laid off without tenure during the financial crisis, Myrick learned how statewide decisions can impact teachers and students at the local level.
Myrick said Bentley’s appointment of Brown — who had no prior experience in school administration — was a wake up call for him. Myrick has a master’s degree in education administration, something he believes will benefit him on the state school board.
“After the appointment I felt like it was now or never,” Myrick said. “It isn’t personal against Mr. Brown, I just believe we need someone with a good working knowledge of the education system. I saw as a teacher that bad policies from the top can trickle down and hurt everyone.”
Originally from Greenville, Alabama, Myrick said his family moved to Baldwin County when he was a child. He said he has friends who are teachers throughout District 1. At 35 years old, he said technology is the future of education and the system could benefit from younger people getting involved.
“Someone has to step up and do something,” he said. “This isn’t a money problem, it is a policy problem.”
As a Chickasaw City Councilman, Bourne cites his experience in establishing the Chickasaw City School system. His wife, Jenny, is a teacher at Davidson High School in Mobile and a member of the Chickasaw City School Board.
“I believe great public schools are the foundation for prosperity in our state,” Bourne said in a statement last week. “You cannot talk about economic or workforce development without also talking about providing a quality education for students. I am committed to doing right by every student in this district and I really do not care about pleasing special interest groups. Alabama’s children will be my special interest each and every day.”
In the race for a pair of contested Baldwin County Board of Education seats, one of the four candidates has withdrawn from the campaign. Foley attorney Narissa Nelson withdrew because she does not live in District 4, leaving longtime Baldwin educator and former assistant superintendent JaNay Dawson unopposed for the seat.
Elsewhere in Baldwin County, District Attorney Hallie Dixon announced last week she will not seek another term in office. In a statement, Dixon said she made the decision after prayer and consideration. Dixon is completing a six-year term that began in January 2011.
“I am incredibly grateful for the voters who gave me the opportunity to serve as your district attorney and all those who never ceased sending their prayers and support,” she said. “I was elected to champion the people and to imbue your district attorney’s office with a passion for seeking truth and justice. Having fulfilled that mission is the greatest professional accomplishment I can imagine, and I will remain forever honored to have been given that privilege.”
Dixon’s announcement left former circuit court judge Robert Wilters unopposed for the Republican nomination for district attorney. According to FCPA filings through Oct. 30, Wilters has received more than $70,000 in contributions. His biggest contributions came from a pair of political action committees — $1,850 from Foley-based Coastal PAC and $2,000 from DVA Holding Company PAC.
Wilters received several $1,000 donations from the legal community, including Kenneth Raines, Lee L. Hale Jr., W. Gregory Hughes, Julian “Buddy” Brackin, Floyd Enfinger, William L. Bass, Blackburn & Conner PC, the Citrin Law Firm, J.R. McKinney, Dan Benton, David P. Broome, John W. Beck and others.
Wilters reported $40,965 in expenses since June, including five $3,500 payments to Fairhope-based Catalyst Associates, $2,640 to Wolf Bay Lodge, payments of $2,500 and $1,075 to Joseph Brown & Associates and $1,500 to Tamara’s.
Scott Taylor, Wilters’ replacement on the circuit court and the only candidate running for the position, reported $43,277 in contributions through Oct. 20. Of those contributions, the largest were $2,000 from Cunningham Bounds LLC, $1,500 from TMS LLC and $1,295 from Daniel Craven. Taylor also reported $1,000 donations from Dampier Law Firm PC, Daniel H. Craven PC, Frazer Green Upchurch & Baker LLC, Matthew E. Rone, Mitzi Johnson Theodoro LLC and Tobias McCormick & Comer LLC as well as a $750 contribution from Jimmy W. Junkins.
For expenses, Taylor reported payments of $5,905, $2,923, $2,588 and $1,500 to TMS LLC for media management and consulting, $4,860 to Owen Gray for catering and three payments of $2,000 to Catalyst Associates.