Mark Barber

Age:  50    

Hometown: Hahira

Nonpartisan race

Please list experiences that would benefit you in this office:  

“A large majority of a school board member’s decisions will be in regard to budgetary and fiscal matters. I will bring 25 years of public finance experience to the board and work collaboratively with fellow board members to ensure the school system remains financially solvent while at the same time not sacrificing a quality education for our children. I have a proven track record of providing sustainable solutions to issues through collaboration and creative problem solving skills.”

What inspired you to run for office?

“I am a product of the Lowndes County School System and my desire is simply to pay it forward by investing in the next generation so that they may have the confidence of a bright future as well. Public education offers the same opportunities for all regardless of socioeconomic background, gender, or race, so it is incumbent upon the system and the school board to ensure that a quality educational foundation is available so that students can achieve success in our system, and in return, be the best and brightest in whatever they may pursue after departure from our school system.”

What do you want to accomplish in this office?  

“I want to champion the power of education to improve the lives of and opportunities for students and in turn enhance our business and taxpaying community. I want to address local problems with local solutions that take into account the diverse interests and needs across our school system. I want to empower our educators with the tools necessary to create an environment of excellence in learning in every school, in every classroom in the Lowndes County School system. Given the recent legislative cuts and reforms to education, it is vital to make informed policy decisions in anticipation of challenges. Developing honest and trusting relationships between teachers, administrators, board members, and the community is essential. I will support policies that enhance student learning, support our educators, and increase collaboration and communication with the community.”

What is your vision for the area?  

“My vision for our community as a whole is for more attractive jobs to be created in our community with hopes that our youth can remain in the area and not be forced to relocate to larger cities to achieve their career goals.”  

Where do you see Valdosta, Lowndes County, South Georgia in the next five years?  

“Hopefully, during this time the economy will improve, the unemployment rate will go down, and both the private and the public sector are back functioning at full capacity. An improved economic environment coupled with a strong public education system with a proven record of excellence will ensure the continued growth of new business prospects to our community which benefits all.”

Eric Johnson

Age: 34

Hometown: Hahira

Nonpartisan race

Please list experiences or experience that would benefit you in this office:

“Commercial Banking Officer – Guardian Bank, Valdosta. Having worked as a commercial lender the last five years, I know firsthand what kind of impact reduced revenue and increased expenses can have on an organization. As a community banker, you have to have a firm grasp of analyzing budgets and financial statements from multiple businesses across many different industries to find creative and innovative ways to help a borrower generate additional revenue and cut expenses. This experience coupled with my financial background and education will allow me to hit the ground running as a potential board member.

“Education: MBA in Finance – University of Georgia – Athens; Bachelor’s of Business Administration – The Citadel - Charleston, S.C.”

What inspired you to run for office?

“I am running for the District 2 Board of Education seat because I believe in this community, our youth, and the educators who teach and mentor them. Upon finishing up Leadership Lowndes in 2011, a very respected individual in this community told me that as leaders of this community, we should find something we are passionate about in the community and try and put all our efforts toward that one goal versus trying to focus on too many things as we will have less of an impact. I decided in 2011 that goal would be education and since then I have put everything I have into bettering our education system here in Lowndes County. I have a vested interest in our school system as I have young kids in the system and will continue to have children in the system for the next four years. As a voter you will know the decisions I make will always be in the best interests of the kids as these decisions will have a direct impact on me personally.”

What do you hope to accomplish in this office?

“I hope to leave office knowing our school systems are in a stronger position than they were when I took office. A strong public school system where student’s master technology, teachers are empowered, and each budget dollar is maximized is a sign of a system that is moving forward. To compete with their peers nationally and globally, our children must not only be able to use technology, they must also be able to create, develop and manage it. We can empower our educators by engaging in strategic partnerships both public and private throughout the community. By partnering with Valdosta City Schools, VSU, Wiregrass, Moody and local area businesses we can accomplish so much more and in turn will have a positive lasting impact on our community as a whole. By doing so, we will help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of each education dollar while also making critical investments in technology infrastructure both inside and outside the classroom.”

What is your vision for the area?

“My vision for Lowndes County is for our community to be a place where local residents have pride in their community and want to live, work and play in Valdosta–Lowndes County. A place where young professionals who grew up in the area want to come back home and raise their children and a place for visitors to call home and want to relocate and raise their families. I believe a solid educational system is the cornerstone of any vibrant community as the educators of today are educating and mentoring the future leaders of tomorrow.”

 

Where do you see Valdosta, Lowndes County, South Georgia in the next five years?

“If we can come together, and garnish the help and support of the entire community, we can build a better education system for our youth which will have a direct impact on our economy as we will be able to attract high-wage employers who are requiring a well-educated and highly skilled workforce.  Once we can address this issue as a community, this in turn will help attract and retain top talent to the area and alleviate the need for students to seek employment in the metro Atlanta area upon graduation from post-secondary education. Once this is in place, Valdosta-Lowndes County can become one of the top five communities in the state for residents to live, work and play.

Tara Boatright Parker

Age: 41

Hometown: Hahira

Nonpartisan race    

Please list experiences or experience that would benefit you in this office:

“Twenty-two years of working as a school/community volunteer for children/youth, 14 years as an educator teaching college students, and 19 years as a parent of Lowndes students. Have a Master of Public Administration degree as well.”

What inspired you to run for office?

“I’ve spent my entire adult life working with kids, students, and in support of education in general. It’s my passion. I want to see a mom and an educator join the Board of Education in order to better represent those views/experiences/backgrounds.”

What do you hope to accomplish in this office?

“Would like to see a major increase in student and teacher morale. Am focused on limiting paperwork/procedures in order to focus more time/effort on teaching and learning. Would like to reduce the government role in dictating teaching standards and implementation and get back to parent and educator-driven standards for our kids in Lowndes County Schools.”

What is your vision for the area?

“Would like to ensure that representatives actually represent the interests of our constituents instead of allowing interest groups, businesses, and/or money influence the actions of the elected officials.”

Where do you see Valdosta, Lowndes County, South Georgia in the next five years?

“I expect Valdosta, Lowndes, and our local higher educational institutions to become leaders in academic standards. Would like to become the examples for other communities and schools to come ask us, ‘What are you doing differently?’ because we have established ourselves as leaders and innovators for improved student and teacher performance.”

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