Six months before the qualifying period starts and eight months before the nonpartisan Election Day, the first candidate for one of the five Muscogee County School Board seats up for election in 2018 has been announced.
Retired urologist Philip Schley, who served on the board for 21 years (1972-81 and 1998-2010), including as chairman for nine years, will try to regain his District 8 seat on the nine-member board.
Schley told the Ledger-Enquirer in voicemail, “I have begun to despair of the harm that’s being done to public education by the inability of the school board to work in cohesion, and I’d like to try to correct that if I can.”
No incumbents and no other challengers have announced their candidacy for the school board elections, which will be decided May 22 during the Georgia primaries. Advance in-person voting will run from April 30 through May 18 in the City Services Center, 3111 Citizens Way. April 23 is the deadline to register to vote in the 2018 primaries and the local nonpartisan elections.
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Frank Myers, a lawyer, is the District 8 representative on the school board. He defeated one-term incumbent Beth Harris, a retired educator, in 2014. Harris has announced her candidacy for mayor of Columbus in 2018.
The other school board seats up for election in 2018 are District 2 (incumbent John Thomas, an IRS agent), District 4 (incumbent Naomi Buckner, a special-education teacher in Chattahoochee County), District 6 (incumbent Mark Cantrell, CEO of Action Buildings) and the board’s lone countywide seat (incumbent Kia Chambers, a real-estate broker).
In a phone interview Friday with the Ledger-Enquirer, Schley said he didn’t run for re-election in 2010 because he felt 21 years was “sufficient time for me to serve. I just felt I’d done my duty.”
Asked why he decided it was time to try to serve again, Schley said, “Historically, there has been a good accord between board members. There are always items vigorously discussed and disagreements, but ordinarily the board members have worked well together. They come to a reasonable agreement and push public education forward. I believe I can help bring back some of that accord.”
Schley, 84, said “a significant group” of people encouraged him to run. Although he wouldn’t name any members of that group, he did summarize their sales pitch.
“The conversation was that we need to bring comity back to the board and between the board and the superintendent of education,” Schley said. “There’s a great deal of concern with the way Dr. (David) Lewis has been treated, specifically by Mr. Myers, and that led to people looking for someone to run.”
Schley declined to mention any other issues for which he wants to advocate, preferring to wait until he has attended board meetings again during the campaign. His campaign chairman will be Cameron Bean, executive director of development for Columbus State University’s College of the Arts, Honors College, Library and Strategic Initiatives, and his campaign treasurer will be John Lee of the accounting firm Fountain, Arrington, Bass, Mercer & Lee.