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Special election a one-man race for school board
bryan county schools Bigger

Derrick Smith is the only candidate who qualified this week for a special election to fill an unexpired term on the Bryan County Schools Board of Education.

The District 3 seat became vacant when Amy Murphy resigned to run for school board chair. State law does not allow a person to hold an elected office while running for a different office.

The special election will be held May 22 in conjunction with the regular primary. The unexpired term runs through the end of 2020.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” Smith said. “When Amy announced she was running for chair and that the seat would be available, it was an opportune moment.”

None of the other seats in the May 22 primary are contested, meaning T-SPLOST will be the only issue attracting voters to the polls.

John Dunivan, an Army veteran and civilian employee at Fort Stewart, said last month he would run for the open seat, but discovered he is legally prevented from doing so. Federal employees are prevented by the Hatch Act from getting involved in partisan politics.

Smith is vice president of First Bank of Coastal Georgia and a board member for the Development Authority of Bryan County. He has served 10 years on the DABC board, including three as chairman.

“I think my experience will be very beneficial to the school board,” he said. “I have an understanding of how public money is spent and what is expected from that spending.”

Smith called his time with the DABC “personally rewarding” in seeing the community grow, add jobs and diversify its tax base.

“When it comes to public dollars, you have to have a wish list and a wish not list,” he said. “You have to be a realist.”

The school board is currently planning a new high school and new elementary school in South Bryan while also dealing with overcrowding at several existing schools. The county’s population is currently about 36,000 and that is expected to more than double over the next three decades.

“We’re going through a lot of growth and we need to figure out how to get ahead of the curve instead of playing catch up,” Smith said. “With the new interchange and the land that was recently annexed into the city, we might grow even faster than anticipated.”

Smith said he and his wife are both Richmond Hill High School graduates, as are two of their children. They also have a freshman at the school.

“The schools are the main reason people move here, just like my parents did 50 years ago,” he said. “We need to make sure that continues by hiring the best teachers and providing the best education possible.”

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