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Social Circle candidates sound off at forum
Council, school board hopefuls face citizens before Nov. 7 election
Jessica Hutcheson
Candidates Jessica Hutcheson (pictured), Tonia Lumpkin and Kimberley Donaldson, all running for the District 1 seat on the Social Circle Board of Education were in attendance during the city’s political forum held Thursday night, Oct. 26, 2017. Candidate Cassie Jones was not in attendance. - photo by Brittney Fitzpatrick

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — At Thursday night’s Social Circle candidate forum held by the Walton County Chamber of Commerce, only one of the three candidates showed up for the City Council District 1 seat, while only one of the eight candidates up for the different school board district seats was unable to attend.

William “Tim” Haney, former Main Street director for the city, took the lectern as plans were quickly changed when neither of his two opponents — Adolphus Gaither and Traysa Cody Price — showed.

Haney began by introducing himself, “I’ve been in Social Circle for three years now and we took the plunge and bought a historic home,” he said. “We love Social Circle and I have a simple focus in life which is, faith, family and community. That’s how I run our family.”

“I’m originally from Gwinnett County, grew up in Dacula, and I am a graduate of Georgia Southern University.

“The reason I put my name in the hat for City Council is because I want to give back, I want to be involved. We love the town and I really want to work hard for the city,” he said. “I have no hidden agendas. The only agenda I have is improving the quality of life in the city. There’s no doubt we are about to see a lot of growth and we need to make sure someone is on the council who will make smart decisions about the growth.”

A father of two children, Haney said the city needs to improve its parks and recreational opportunities.

“I think we could really enhance our parks, expand them, create trails, and I would love to work with the city to do that. We have some challenges in the downtown area that I also want to work on and make sure these older buildings are ready and prepared for the growth,” he said.

As far as those running for the school board, Cassie Jones, contender for the District 1 seat, was unable to make the evening’s forum due to a family event.

The first question, “Describe a project or initiative related to public education which you’ve led and the impact of your work,” received a wide variety of answers from the candidates.

Jessica Hutcheson, candidate running for the District 1 seat, said, “I have such a passion for early childhood literacy, so I started Tales for Tots, a program here in Social Circle’s library.

“I volunteer twice a month and have learned by hearing about the impact from the families. How it helps the children get ready for the school system, gives them a comfort level that learning is fun.”

Tonia Lumpkin, also running for the District 1 seat, said, “The only thing I can think of is an organization I am a part of, which is the Annie Pauline Henderson Scholarship Foundation. We help high school students who are trying to go to college, funds and scholarships needed to purchase books.

“We also do a back-to-school drive each year and put together bookbags with school supplies and have between 200 to 500 students who benefit from the drive.”

When asked, “What do you consider to be the top priorities for Social Circle (City) Schools to continue positive progress,” Jamie Peterson, District 2 incumbent said,

“I think we need to work on our sciences and increasing our pathways. That’s another way to provide all sorts of things. The school board has asked for help from the city and we are in the process of trying to get new facilities for our students.”

Her opponent, Antonio Rico Jackson, said he believes the top priorities are getting behind the faculty and staff throughout the school system who are the ones taking care of the children during the day.

“We also need more work-related programs, because I’m sure we all know that not every child is going to college or go to a technical school,” he said. “We need to get the kids who aren’t going to college, other options.”

Charlie Akin
Charles Akin, incumbent running for the District 4 seat, said, “We really need to focus on academic improvement through the teachers program, through the Board of Education and the staff in order to enhance the productivity of these students.

“We need to expand the ag (agriculture) program and bring new things to the system to teach our young people how to be more productive when they graduate.”

Sabrina Sanford-Flint, opponent for the District 4 seat, believes the greatest challenge in the school system is being able to reach every child, every day.

“A lot of children come to school with a lot of other issues or baggage and the teachers have to be equipped with the passion along with the qualification to make a difference in a child’s life.”

Kimberley Donaldson, contender for the District 1 seat, said, “I’m the only person I think here that is actually a teacher, working in the schools right now, and I can tell you that these initiatives are great but we need to find a way to fund them. We need to create partnerships with businesses and encourage entrepreneurship. No one goes into teaching for the money and I don’t know a single colleague of mine who isn’t passionate about their students.”

All of those up for seats in various districts were able to come to the same conclusion when it came to the students: There needs to be more available for them in and out of the classrooms.

Election Day is Nov. 7.