With only four votes needed for a majority, the McDowell County Board of Education selected a replacement for the vacant Marion seat left open by the resignation of former member Randy Williams.
During the July school board meeting, school board members voted to allow Marion residents to submit a letter of intent for the seat. Potential candidates submitted letters to be considered, were interviewed by the board’s attorney and told a decision would be made at the September board meeting.
Slated as the second item under unfinished business, Chairman Terry Frank opened up the vote to board members on Monday.
“What we are going to do is pick Mr. Williams replacement tonight, and we will vote in the order that you were interviewed,” Frank said during the meeting. “We will vote on individual names and when we get a majority we are going to cease the vote right there.”
The candidates were interviewed in the order of Chad Marsh, Samantha Parrow, Michelle Pupoh, Donnie Suttles and Paula Swepson-Avery.
Before the vote began, Pleasant Gardens representative Brian Piercy recused himself from the vote because he is related to Marsh.
“I spoke to Mr. Henning (board attorney) and this is something I have been thinking hard about, and he said I did not have to do this, but for me, the moral and ethical thing to do, I have to do, is not participate in the vote,” said Piercy. “I feel I have to do this and I recuse myself from participating.”
Henning, the board attorney, said Piercy could legally cast a vote, but within his rights to recuse himself.
“We don’t know how the vote is going to go, and we are not allowed to talk about it in open session. But I want to remind that whoever is elected, that you can’t come up and take a seat on the board tonight, you have to be sworn in at the next board meeting,” said Frank. “Then you can come up and be a part of the board.”
All of the candidates were present except for Suttles. Frank introduced all of the candidates before the vote.
“At this time, your name is up for vote, and everyone in favor of Mr. Marsh, please signify by raising your right hand,” said Frank.
Four members – Franks, Doug McCraw, Bob Brackett and Greg Barksdale—raised their hands. A motion was made to confirm the vote for Marsh. A motion was passed unanimously to accept the majority vote.
The McDowell News spoke to Marsh, who said he is humbled by the decision and ready to serve.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to continue doing what I love, which is serving our hometown,” he said. “Coming into this I had no plans or agendas, but as a father of four I care about this community and these kids. I just want to continue serving and make the process better. I think there is a good group here of caring people that they are able to do the right thing and I want to be a part of that. I’m going to hit the ground running.”
Marsh will fulfill the term until November 2020. Filing for the 2020 office takes place this December, not giving him much time to make a decision on running for election.
“What I want to do is get on here and find out how effective I can be and evaluate going forward, but I know I need to make my mind up pretty quick,” said Marsh.
In other business:
- Superintendent Mark Garrett gave the Old Fort Project update during unfinished business. He presented the board with a copy of the changes order and the contingency budget. “Our contingency budget is still sitting very, very nice,” said Garrett. “It started out at $585,000 and we are still sitting at $459,808.” The monthly construction meeting with the architects and contractors continues to take place. Masonry is focusing on laying the load-bearing walls. “They are supposed to start working on the steel Oct. 1, that is their goal,” Garrett said. “Phase 1 of the project is expected to be substantially complete by July 2020, which means the new school should be ready to open as planned.”