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Schools capture businessman's attention
BoE Chairman Eddie Warren
LOH warren in video
Richmond Hill businessman and Bryan County Board of Education Chairman Eddie Warren runs after French rap star Diam, seeming to offer her some type of contract, in a video update of her 2009 Enfants du dsert (Children of the Desert), which was filmed in Savannah. You can watch the video at - photo by Screenshot

There are a lot of things that might surprise those living in Bryan County, and local businessman and School Board Chairman Eddie Warren starring in a rap video would surely be near the top of that list.

It even surprises Warren.

"My youngest daughter did some modeling and I had taken her to a modeling agency in Savannah. About two weeks later, I got a call from the agency to see if I wanted to be in a video," Warren said. "They were looking for someone who looks like a businessman to be in a music video. It was filming in Savannah in the parking garage across from the county jail."

He said he didn’t know it was a rap video until he arrived. The video, which was filmed several years ago, was a Forest Gump parody for French rapper Diam.

Warren said it was fortunate he only had to portray a businessman and did not have to demonstrate his rap skills.

"It was a lot of fun."

Warren said the north Alabama town near Anniston where he grew up is reminiscent of the Richmond Hill days of old.

The partner in Re/Max Accent arrived in Richmond Hill in 1986. He met Lori, his wife of 37 years, while both attended high school in Weaver, Ala. Warren said both sets of their parents were retired military so traveling was not new to either of them.

The trip from north Alabama to Richmond Hill came via the Wendy’s restaurant chain.

"I was working for Wendy’s and the owner wanted his son to get into the business," Warren said. "His father sent him to me before he started his official training, hoping to get him a leg up along the way. He eventually wound up opening a Wendy’s in Kingsland. And I came down to help him.

"When he decided to build a store in Richmond Hill, I helped open the store."

Never in his wildest dreams did he think he would wind up planting roots and raising a family in the Henry Ford city, Warren said.

"I was going to open the Richmond Hill store and wasn’t really sure where we were going to go."

Warren opened the Richmond Hill store in 1986 and was involved with the local restaurant chain until 2005. He sold the store in 2001 but remained on as a consultant until 2005.

His interest with real estate harkens back to when he was helping set up various Wendy’s restaurants and his involvement with finding suitable site locations and guiding the restaurant’s development through the planning and construction phases.

"We had to find sites and deal with planning people to get the stores up and running," he said. "One site we had was a converted bank. It was on a big piece of property. We picked the bank up and moved it to the rear of the property and then built a Wendy’s up front.

"We also built a couple of car washes and all the real estate dynamics that went into building those and the restaurants, I found very interesting. We also had some rental properties that we managed. The real estate business just fascinated me."

That fascination saw Warren take the leap from the restaurant to real estate business in 2005, not long before the local and national real estate market fell through the floor.

"We survived the downturn and I did do some consulting with the Wendy’s franchise."

In 2004, Warren and several other real estate professionals purchased the Richmond Hill/Remax, survived the lean years and have built upon the solid business they purchased.

"The real estate market now is doing real well," Warren said. "2016 was a very good year for the business and 2017 looks very solid, also."

Warren’s interest and ultimate election as the Bryan County Board of Education chairman should come as no surprise to anyone who knows the Warren family. They come from a background of educators, which fueled his interest in taking the top elected spot on the school board.

His wife, Lori, is a retired educator and teaching runs thick in his family.

He and Lori are the parents of Erin, a teacher at Richmond Hill Elementary School, Katelyn Finnegan, a teacher at McAllister Elementary School, and Sarah, a teacher in Bowie, Texas.

Warren began his service on the school board as a district representative in 2001.

"I had never been in any type of political position, so I wasn’t really sure how long I would serve," he said.

Warren said he doesn’t believe he’s in a political position, but acknowledges there are plenty of people who would likely disagree with him.

"I’m in a position where I am trying to do good for the school board and the children of Bryan County," he said.

He was elected chairman of the board and took office in 2007 and will continue to serve in that position until his current term ends in 2018. Warren said he is undecided if he will seek re-election when his current term expires.

"It’s a little early to decide. I’ll sit down with Lori when the time comes and we’ll make a decision."

Warren said one of the biggest misconceptions about the school system comes in terms of building new schools to cope with growth.

"The schools are always planning for growth. We did the $100 million bond referendum and that should take us for a while," he said. "We have to project out and adjust our numbers every year."

He explained that in order to obtain state funding for a portion of building a new school, which all school districts do, is to physically have the children in place before the qualifying for funding can take place.

"You can plan and you can build whatever you want with your local tax dollars. The state does not pay for a child until you already have that child in place. So you are automatically behind the eight ball if you’re a growing community," he said.

"If you have a building with 25 classrooms but you have children for 30, the state will fund you for those five. How much they will fund is based on a ratio and also how much money has been made available from the state legislature for capital projects."

No schools in Bryan County have been built with strictly local funds since he began serving on the school board. If that were ever to happen, he said, using strictly school funds would likely require a massive hike in school taxes.

"It would take a very rich community to build schools without using available state funds," he said.

Warren said the educational challenges facing the community and school board in the next five years include teacher retention. He said much of the financial increases given teachers through raises are eaten up by a similar, or in some cases, higher increase in health care costs.

"Teacher retention is going to be first and funding for school systems, in general, will be next."

Warren said that all government entities, schools and otherwise, need to plan for the coming growth.

"When I got here, the community was very small. If you had to call where Walmart is now on Highway 17, it was long distance," he said. "So with the growth have come improvements in services and shop-local opportunities. It’s all about planning for the future and staying with the plan. The coming interchange and commercialization of the interchange will really help from a tax standpoint.

"I think where the interchange is going will help the city and county."

While he agrees wholeheartedly that running your own business and being school board chairman can be daunting, he said he likes to relax with his family, when time permits.

"I sometimes work six days a week so any extra time I get, I try to spend with Lori and the kids. I like watching college football, particularly the Crimson Tide. The family are Alabama fans. But family time is very valuable to me."

Warren said he is constantly planning and evaluating his future. He said he enjoyed working on the rap video and, in a perfect world, would not close the door on participating in future entertainment projects, including movies.

That might be the next phase of the former restaurant owner, businessman and school board chairman’s life.

It’s just a matter of finding the time.

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