Board of Education member Arnold Flowers has announced that he does not intend to run for re-election in 2018 -- but what the future holds is still up in the air.
Flowers made the announcement at the end of the board's meeting Thursday. He said that he felt the time had come for him to step aside.
"I've served two terms, and for a guy like me, that's kind of enough," he said. "It's certainly not because of anything to do with the board itself."
Before serving on the board, Flowers also served one term as a Wayne County commissioner in 2000. Soon afterward, all three of his sons returned home to work with him at his company, Flowers Timber Company in Seven Springs. With the three back and working hard, Flowers said he had no time to run for commissioner again.
By 2010, things had leveled out, and Flowers found himself with more time to commit to public service. Instead of running for commissioner, however, he decided to run for the school board. Flowers said he felt at the time that his experience in business and on the board of commissioners would help him bring something unique to the school board.
"I didn't feel like, in my time on the board of commissioners, that the commissioners and school board really worked together well, and we couldn't get anything done," he said. "Having been on the board of commissioners, I felt like I could maybe help the school board understand their mindset."
During school board discussions, Flowers would frequently try to do just that. Especially on discussions of budget, he often tried to explain how county commissioners might be constructing their plans for funding the school system, in order to smooth the process out.
"I think I've been successful in that. I don't want to play my own music here, but I do think I've been able to do that," he said. "I think the board is moving along well. I want to see us get to some more of the projects we have money budgeted for, I hope we can make that happen."
As for what comes next, that remains to be seen. From now until 2020, Flowers said he intends to take a sabbatical, spending time maintaining his land and helping his youngest son run his sawmill business. By the time 2020 rolls around, and with state and local congressional districts in a constant state of flux, Flowers' options could be wide open. He floated the possibility of running for the board of commissioners again, or seeking a spot in the North Carolina House or Senate.
"Right now, I live in (Rep.) Jimmy Dixon's district, and I would never run against Jimmy because I think he's doing a great job, so why would I rock that boat?" he said, adding that he also lives in (Sen.) Louis Pate's district. "But there is always a chance that Louis will not run again, and with the districts up in the air the way they are, it's possible there will be an opening for somebody like me."
As for the board of commissioners, Flowers reiterated that he would not run against fellow Republican Bill Pate. However, Flowers said he anticipated that several members of the board will not seek re-election this year, which could make a candidate with prior experience on the board, like him, an attractive choice.
For now, Flowers is content to work through the rest of his tenure on the school board. There are still plenty of issues to be resolved before he leaves, with facility improvements and redistricting among the most pressing and complex. In the end, he could simply retire to Seven Springs and help raise his eight grandchildren. Given that he will always have work to do to help his children in their pursuits, that course seems unlikely.
"I'd like to say I'd be fully retired, but I doubt it," he said with a laugh. "I'd like to say I could be fully out, but these are my children."