During public comments at Monday night’s McDowell County Board of Education meeting, a Marion man, who previously ran unsuccessfully for the board, called for sitting member Randy Williams to resign, alleging that he really lives in California.
“I have been concerned about where Randy Williams lives,” David Patenaude said. “I have been here several times over the last few months and you have not been here. It is concerning that you don’t live here. A lot of people on the board know that he doesn’t live here, that he actually stays in California. He serves on the McDowell County Board of Education, but for all practical purposes, living in California. A couple of years ago when you were elected, people didn’t think when they elected you, that you were living in California. That’s dishonest. It just truly is. It’s completely 100 percent wrong and I really think you should resign from your position.”
Rules for public comments say that “board members will not respond to individuals addressing the board unless to request clarification about points made by the presenter.” When he was finished, board member Doug McCraw asked Patenaude if he ran against Williams in the last election, and if Williams had beaten him in the race.
“That is correct. He did,” Patenaude said to McCraw. “Honestly that is one of the reasons that I waited this long to bring this up.”
After the meeting, Williams told The McDowell News that Patenaude’s allegations are simply not true, and he doesn’t feel he should have to defend anything about his residency. Williams did say he travels to California to visit his children, grandchildren and wife, and also gets his mail there.
“It’s public comment and people should be able to say what they want within reason, but I live right here in McDowell County. I have my residence here, and it’s none of anyone’s business if I take vacations and how often,” Williams said by phone on Tuesday. “My wife is working full time out there. I vacation quite often out there and in Hawaii. I go to a lot of different places and I come back here for my home. I was in the hospital for the last meeting because my eighth grandbaby was being born.”
The McDowell News checked into Williams’ attendance starting from January 2017. His name is not listed on any of the special-called meetings the board attended.
For regular board meetings this year, he was not present in January; present in February; by phone in March; not present in April; and present in May. For 2017, he was present at all of the meetings from January to August, November and December.
The McDowell News asked Williams since his family his on the West Coast, why does he continue to stick around McDowell?
“We are natives of McDowell. My family and my wife’s family are here, as well as my office is here,” he said, adding that he is active in the Mystic Tie Lodge and a licensed realtor in McDowell.
“I’m going to enjoy my family and grandkids as much as I can,” said Williams. “I’m humbled the people of McDowell County voted me back in and I always want to do what is best for the kids.”
The board’s attorney, John Henning, Jr., said discussions about the board member could not be brought into closed session. On Tuesday, he told The McDowell News the Board of Elections is responsible for the qualifications of a candidate.
“We have not been asked to investigate anything. It would be up to the board of elections to make sure that folks who file for an office are qualified for it,” said Henning Jr.
Director for McDowell Board of Elections Kim Welborn clarified said a voter would have to submit a written challenge on an office holder, and the Board of Elections would hold a preliminary hearing.
In other business:
-Superintendent Mark Garrett gave his administrative reports.
-The board recognized McDowell High School’s Future Farmers of America team for their recent wins at the state championship.
-The board recognized McDowell County school teachers who were in the Top 25 percent in North Carolina for student growth. A photo of the teachers with their names will appear in a later edition.
-Director of Student Services Natalie Gouge and CTE Director Mary Finley gave a presentation on future-focused partnerships with business and industry. Finley also gave the annual CTE report.
--Teacher representative Benjamin Moore talked to the board about the science behind choir singing. He showed a video of a group of people with no real singing background singing a Prince song in an auditorium. At the next meeting, he plans to have the crowd of attendees sing “Country Roads,” by John Denver to put the study to the test.
-Garrett gave an update on the Old Fort project. He said they received a memo from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s school construction office and historical commission. The state agency had “no comment” on the proposed demolition of the school, Garrett said. They told Garrett neither the school’s gym nor the auditorium are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. “So you are approved to move forward with whatever you choose as a board,” said Garrett. He updated the board on site development cost estimates which could reach up to $2.5 million.
-The board voted unanimously to approve the Head Start Non-Federal Share Waiver Request, the Head Start Grant Application and Budget Justification and the Head Start Supplemental Funds Budget.
-The board voted unanimously to approve the 2018-2019 CTE plan.
-The board nominated and approved Nancy Hunter as a board member to the McDowell Tech Board of Trustees.