Half a dozen people have applied for the District 6 school board seat left vacant when Tim Morgan was elected to an at-large seat in November, with the application deadline looming at 3 p.m. Monday. The eight current members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board plan to hear applicants' pitches at 1 p.m. Tuesday; if time allows, they'll discuss and possibly select an appointee that afternoon. If not, they'll meet again at 4 p.m. Thursday . Both special meetings are open to the public.
Here are the names so far:
Scott Babbidge of Matthews, a Republican who filed to run for the at-large seat but withdrew when there were four Republicans seeking the three seats.
E. Thomas Bowers of Charlotte, a Democrat and progressive political activist.
Larry Bumgarner of Mint Hill, an unaffiliated voter who has frequently run for school board, including this year. His comments will be familiar to readers of this blog.
Angelica P. Castaneda-Noorbakhsh of Charlotte, whom I've been told is a leader in the Latino networking and advocacy group Enlace Charlotte. I can't find her under any variation of that name in voter records.
Michael Orlando Jones of Matthews, a name that's new to me. Voter records show a Michael Orlando Jones who's a Republican living in District 1 and a Michael O. Jones who's a Democrat living in District 2. To be considered for the District 6 appointment, applicants must be registered to vote there.
Bolyn McClung of Pineville, a Republican who's also familiar to readers of blog comments. He served on the panel led by former Gov. James Martin that advised CMS on construction strategies after a failed 2005 bond vote and is a regular at school board meetings.
I'll get the applications next week and learn more about these folks. It'll be interesting to see if there's a last-minute surge of filing; in recent years, open seats have drawn big crowds of applicants. Rumors have been floating that this vacancy, which has two years left to serve, might entice former board Chair Wilhelmenia Rembert , who served five years in an at-large post and lives in District 6. Morgan says he knows of two more people who definitely plan to apply Monday and one who's considering it.
There's also been speculation about how the board will make a choice. Will they pick someone similar to Morgan, a moderate Republican? Will the Democrats who hold a majority push someone from their party, even though the south suburban district is heavily GOP? A look at other appointments indicates anything could happen.
The two most recent vacancies occurred at the end of 2008, when Vilma Leake and George Dunlap became county commissioners and left openings in Districts 2 and 3, respectively. Nineteen people applied for District 2 and 22 for District 3, though only 17 ended up making speeches for each opening (some withdrew, were deemed ineligible or just didn't follow through). Democrats and African Americans make up a majority of both districts. The board chose Kimberly Mitchell-Walker, a black Democrat, for District 2. James Ross, a black Republican, got the District 3 seat, ruffling some Democratic feathers. Both ran for office the following year and lost.
In 2006, unaffiliated at-large member Kit Cramer resigned and 40 people signed up to take her place. The board chose Trent Merchant, also an unaffiliated voter. I still grin when remembering the article I wrote to introduce him: An Observer researcher found a 2002 article describing him as a young Atlanta actor who got frustrated with noisy audience members.
"Get the f--- out!" Merchant yelled, according to that clip. "Either shut up or leave!"
Although he did earn a reputation for colorful commentary, Merchant never used those particular phrases with his colleagues. He was elected to the at-large seat the following year.
Finally, the last time the board appointed a District 6 representative was in August 2005, during an election season. Republican Lee Kindberg resigned with four months left on her term and endorsed Democrat Liz Downing, who was running for the seat, as her fill-in. Some board members balked at appointing someone who was campaigning, but Downing got the nod over eight other applicants. (She was defeated by Republican Ken Gjertsen in November.) In one of the odder twists, Republican County Commissioner Bill James had offered to represent the district on both bodies to fill the gap before the election.
Hmm ... no word from James about the school board this time around. Then again, some commenters have suggested he's got his eye on becoming Mayor of Ballantyne now.