07/18/04 — Duplin voters to decide contests for commissioner, schools

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Duplin voters to decide contests for commissioner, schools

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on July 18, 2004 2:16 AM

Duplin County Democrats will choose Tuesday who will make it to the November election for three county commissioner seats and one seat on the school board.

Commissioners L.S. Guy of District 1 and Reginald Wells of District 6 face opposition in their bids for re-election.

Guy, who lives in Faison, faces Snodie Wilson of Kenansville for the Democratic nomination. The winner will have no opposition in the November election.

Wells faces Quincy Hill in his bid for nomination. The winning Democrat will square off against Republican Sean Knowles in November. All of the candidates are from Rose Hill.

Commissioner Myrle Beringer of District 4 announced he would not run again, and two Democrats are going after his seat. They are Tommy Herring and David Fussell, both of Wallace. The winner will face Republican Ray Garriss of Wallace in November.

The District 5 incumbent, Zettie Williams of Magnolia, is unopposed.

Three Democrats are going after the school board seat being vacated by retiring Chairman Doc Brinson of District 1. They are Gary Cook of Warsaw and Kenansville residents Willie Gillespie and Stephen Williamson.

The school board members representing Districts 5 and 6 are unopposed. They are Hubert E. Bowden of Warsaw and Reginald Kenan of Wallace.

Also unopposed is the register of deeds, Davis Brinson.

School board

The following candidates are running for the Democratic nomination for the District 1 seat on the Duplin County school board. The seat is currently held by Chairman Doc Brinson, who has announced plans to retire.

Gary Cook of Bowdens Road is a newcomer to politics. He works for Murphy Brown and volunteers at James Kenan High School.

Cook's wife, Becky, is a teacher's assistant at Warsaw Elementary School. Cook is also a Scout Master for Troop 20 and heads a Venturing Crew.

Cook, who graduated from James Kenan in 1974, said he likes the community school concept. A consolidated high school would cost too much money, he said.

"The county commissioners can't find enough money now to meet the budget. ... Looks to me like the consolidation group is only looking at racial make-up. That's all you hear. They need to be color blind and look at them as kids that need to be taught."

Willie Gillespie, who lives in Kenansville, taught science and math at four Duplin schools, was an assistant principal at Warsaw Elementary and principal at Charity, E.E. Smith and James Kenan schools.

He said he wants to make a significant improvement in closing the achievement gap. "There are different achievement levels in the various sub-populations in the schools," he said. "Minority and limited-English speaking kids and lower socio-economic kids tend to linger behind other students in academic achievements."

He favors building a new middle school and upgrading the high school.

Gillespie said the board needs to look to the future at population changes and recruit more teachers who are able to meet the needs of all the students.

Stephen Williamson of Kenansville has been a classroom teacher, a civil defense director, a probation-parole officer, a District Court judge for the 4th District, a scoutmaster and a church and community leader.

Having been a District Court judge for 23 years, he said, he isn't afraid to face hard issues and deal with problems with a fresh attitude.

If elected, Williamson said, he would consider redrawing school district lines if it would accomplish the purpose of alleviating overcrowding in the school system with minimal disruption to the students' lives. He doesn't like the idea of long bus rides to and from school.

He said he would work to lower class size, find ways to increase funding to broaden the curriculum and try to create equitable circumstances for all children to have equal opportunities.

There is racial imbalance within Duplin County schools, he said. "The school board needs to be sure that local administrators are following the established federal guidelines and ensure racial balance."