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Commissioners candidates say school ties won't affect decisions

John Munson says he will continue campaign as a write-in candidate

September 15, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

Three of the five Republican candidates who appeared to make it through Tuesday's primary election for Washington County Commissioner have ties to the county public schools system, but all three say that won't affect their decisions, should they be elected Nov. 2.

Teacher Terry Baker, retired administrator Bill McKinley and current school board member Ruth Anne Callaham are among the five who, based on complete but unofficial results, will join Democrat Kristin Aleshire and Green Party candidate Joe Lane on the General Election ballot for the five commissioner seats.

Meanwhile, one commissioner candidate who did not finish with enough votes to move on to the general election said he will continue his campaign.

John Munson, a former county commissioner, filed Wednesday morning as a write-in candidate. He said the county needs someone who will be willing to say "no" to unnecessary projects and who will push to end borrowing and to pay off the county's debt.

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"I feel that the people don't understand what the motive of some of the candidates they have in there is," Munson said.

Munson was a commissioner from 2002 to 2006. He was seventh in the complete but unofficial Republican primary results.

To run as a write-in, a candidate must file paperwork with the county election board by Oct. 27, acting Washington County Election Director Kaye E. Robucci said. Voters can then vote for that candidate by touching "write in" on their touch-screen ballot and typing in the name on a keyboard that appears on the screen, she said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, John Munson was the only candidate who had filed as a write-in, she said.

Regarding the potential addition to the board of two more commissioners with school system ties, McKinley said he did not think his vote or Callaham's would tip the scale on education-related issues.

"I know Ruth Anne and I know myself, and I don't believe either one of us are one-dimensional people," said McKinley, who was the school system's executive director of support services from 1998 to 2002 and director of secondary schools from 1994 to 1998. "I don't believe we're in the education block to the point that that's why we're there. We're there for the overall good of the county."

McKinley said, if elected, he would consider how education fits with and affects everything else in making decisions on matters like the county budget.

"I believe it's just another piece of the puzzle," he said.

Callaham, too, said, if elected, she would make decisions with the effects on the entire county -- not any one interest group -- in mind.

She said the decision whether to provide funds to the school system above the required "maintenance of effort" level would depend on the overall budget picture and was not a matter she could make up her mind on ahead of time.

"As a businesswoman first and a commissioner second, having had input and experience in the schools, I think I could give a very balanced vote on that," she said.

Incumbent Terry Baker, who is a teacher at Washington County Technical High School, said while he supports education, his voting record shows he has favored funding the school system at only the state-mandated level.

Robin Lynne Wivell, who came in 267 votes behind Callaham in the unofficial results, said she would wait to see what happened with the absentee ballots.

Asked for her thoughts on the five candidates who appeared to secure the Republican ballot slots, Wivell said she didn't think they represented the whole county.

"I think they represent a few," she said.

Nevertheless, if the official primary results do not put Wivell on the ballot, she said she probably would not pursue a write-in campaign.

"I believe that when the people vote, this is what they choose, and you have to stand by your votes," Wivell said. "It's a fair system."

Wivell said she thought her conservative views and her honesty appealed to many voters, but inexperience might have prevented her from breaking into the top five.

"What held me back is I'm a newbie just coming into the political arena," Wivell said, adding that she would have to become "more of a voice" in local politics to boost her chances if she decides to run again.

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