A familiar name to the Chattahoochee Valley is the Harris County Board of Education's lone finalist to become its next superintendent.
The seven-member board unanimously voted Thursday night to select Jimmy Martin, the superintendent of the Chattahoochee County School District. Board chairwoman Karen Hopkins explained the decision Friday morning.
"We had a lot of great candidates, and we were pleased with the choices," she said, "but Dr. Martin has the education and experience and personality to make him a good fit for Harris County."
Martin has been Chattahoochee County's superintendent since 2008. He was principal of three schools: Chattahoochee County High School (2006-08), Central Middle School in Coosa County, Ala. (2004-06) and Thomasville Middle School (2002-04). He also was band director for Faith Middle School at Fort Benning (2001-02) and Beauregard High School in Lee County, Ala. (1989-2001).
Martin earned a doctorate in educational leadership (2003) and a bachelor's of music education (1989) from Auburn University and a master's of educational administration (1994) from Troy State University.
The board interviewed four of the more than 30 candidates who applied, Hopkins said. Asked why only one finalist selected, Hopkins said, "We just all agreed."
Georgia law requires the board to wait at least 14 days before voting to hire a superintendent. The board probably won't call a meeting to do that, Hopkins said, so the vote is expected to be during the board's next scheduled meeting, April 8.
If hired, Martin said, he hopes to start the new job July 1.
Martin, 47, said he always has considered this area his home. He went to elementary school in Columbus and middle and high school in Smiths Station. His grandmother lived in Harris County, so he is familiar with many people in the community.
All of which, he said, is why he couldn't pass up this chance to lead a bigger district by having to move his office only about 40 miles.
"It's always hard to leave folks you're comfortable with," Martin said. "But it's just one of those things that has happened at the right time. After a while, you want to go to a system that's larger, a better opportunity, even though the people in Chattahoochee County have been just great to me, just super."
Chattahoochee County's enrollment is about 970 students; Harris County's is about 5,200. Martin's salary is $107,800 now; he said he and the Harris County board haven't discussed his compensation package yet, and the job description doesn't mention figures. The salary for Craig Dowling, the previous superintendent in Harris County, was $135,000 when he retired Dec. 31.
"I was more intrigued by the position than the salary," Martin said. "I was not looking to leave, but when it came open, I though about it and talked to a bunch of folks about it up there, and they urged me to apply.
"I am happy where I am, but anybody who wants to try to do more for kids wants to be in a situation where they can do more."
Jeff Branham has served as Harris County's interim superintendent and will return to his previous role as human resources director when the new superintendent is hired, Hopkins said. She added that Branham didn't want to be considered for the top job.
"Mr. Branham is the reason the board is not anxious about the exact start date for a new superintendent," Hopkins said. "He is doing a wonderful job as interim superintendent and is willing to serve until a new superintendent is on board. We have been very fortunate to have Mr. Branham."
It's unclear how the Chattahoochee County board will handle replacing Martin if he indeed goes to Harris County. Board chairwoman Christy Humber wasn't reached for comment Friday.
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow Mark on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.