After barely missing out on qualifying for the runoff in the previous election, John “Bart” Steed again will campaign for the Muscogee County School Board’s District 2 seat, currently filled by John Thomas.
“I am 100 percent, definitely going to run,” Steed told the Ledger-Enquirer in a phone interview Monday evening.
Steed, owner of Kar-Tunes Car Stereo, is the second candidate to announce his campaign for one of the nine-member board’s five seats up for election in 2018. Retired urologist Philip Schley announced last week he will try to regain the District 8 seat, currently filled by Frank Myers, a self-employed lawyer.
The other seats up for election are 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).
Qualifying for the 2018 local nonpartisan races runs from 9 a.m. March 5 until noon March 9. April 23 is the deadline to register to vote in those elections. Advance in-person voting will be April 30 through May in the City Services Center, 3111 Citizens Way. May 22 will be Election Day for those races.
In the four-way District 2 race during the 2014 election, Thomas, an IRS agent, led the first round of voting by receiving 35.27 percent of the vote. The 28-year incumbent, property management and construction businessman John Wells, received 27.56 percent of the vote while Steed received 26.61 percent and Pratt & Whitney training and development coordinator Victor Morales received 10.44 percent. Two months later, Thomas trounced Wells in the runoff, 80-20 percent.
Since then, Steed has served on several school district advisory or oversight committees, including for alternative education and the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. He also regularly has attended board meetings to keep updated on the issues. And he doesn’t like what he sees from Thomas and Myers, the board’s most vocal critics of superintendent David Lewis.
“They came in as a pair and are sticking together as a pair,” Steed said. “John Thomas is following suit with everything Frank Myers does. I don’t think we have good representation up there.
“They are making a mockery of the system up there. We’ve got a good superintendent. We’ve got to support him, and they’re stepping outside their bounds on some of these topics. You want to voice your opinion, but they keep changing the question. They (administrators) answer it, and it’s never good enough.”
“The superintendent is hired to run the district,” Steed said. “If you take his control away, how are you going to hold him accountable?”
Steed also objected to Thomas’ unsuccessful attempt for the board to gain access to the administration’s more detailed financial data and his failed proposal to reduce from $15,000 to $5,000 the superintendent’s authority to make expenditures without board approval.
“That sounds great, but it slows the system down and could make it not function,” Steed said. “They wanted untethered access. That, to me, is overstepping the bounds of the board.”
Steed, 59, is a product of the Muscogee County School District, graduating in 1976 from Kendrick High School. With 40 years in the business world, he said, “I’ve got a ton of experience. I’ve done budgets, proposals, contracts, and I deal with tons of people. So I have a good business background.
“The element of common sense is lacking with John Thomas. I think he does things just to get attention, just to get noticed. It’s grandstanding. They (Thomas and Myers) have been in office for three years now, and they really haven’t accomplished anything that’s going to help the kids.”
Asked what he advocates to help the kids, Steed said he wants the district to find ways to decrease paperwork for teachers and increase the number of grade levels with teacher aides. Asked how the district should pay for adding such positions, he said, “Leave it up to the superintendent. He’s the one who knows.”
In an email Tuesday to the Ledger-Enquirer, Thomas declined to respond to Steed’s comments and said he hasn’t decided whether he will run for re-election.