ALBANY, Ga. -- After retiring from Prudential Financial as a financial representative following 19 years of work, Carol Tharin was interested in serving her community.
After turning in qualifying paperwork Tuesday, the Auburn University graduate announced her candidacy for her first political office in front of the Dougherty County School System's Administration Building.
Tharin, 63, is running for the Board of Education's District 4 seat held by retiring incumbent Emily Jean McAfee, who was first elected in 1999.
"I've always had an interest in community activities and community politics," said Tharin, a Democrat who graduated from Auburn in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in speech communications. "Since I'm retired, I have some time to serve my community.
"I'm not intimated. I'm here to be the voice of reason and to do what's right for the students of the Dougherty County School System and the taxpayers of Dougherty County."
Two more Dougherty School Board candidates -- one a Republican and one a Democrat -- also qualified Tuesday to run in the July 20 primary. Dean Phinazee, a retired educator who had previously announced his intention to run for the Board, qualified as a Democrat to seek the District 6 seat being vacated by Michael Windom. Donnie Smith, wife of District 2 Dougherty County Commission candidate Lonnie Smith, qualified as a Republican to seek the District 2 School Board seat currently held by Milton Griffin.
Longtime Dougherty County Commissioner Jack Stone, a Democrat, also qualified for re-election to his District 6 seat.
In Lee County, Republican incumbent District 1 County Commissioner Dennis Roland became the county's first official qualifier for the partisan primaries.
Tharin said she was well aware of the controversy surrounding the naming of Albany State University executive Joshua Murfree as the school system's next superintendent.
"I think it's appalling the fact elected officials that are supposed to represent the voters are more concerned with their personal agendas rather than the children in the school system," she said. "I'm going to promise you this: I'm going to be an advocate for transparency for the School Board in all their decisions.
"If I'm elected, I will be happy to explain why I voted that way," she added, alluding to board members James Bush, Velvet Riggins, Anita Williams-Brown and Milton Griffin recently walking away from media representatives when asked questions regarding their votes for Murfree.
Tharin said her platform includes increasing parental participation, reviewing all safety policies with special attention on bullying, higher graduation rates and test scores, "cost-cutting in administration so more revenue can be directed to teacher and classroom needs," and expanding and enhancing student mentoring programs by community leaders and businesses.
McAfee said she's stepping down to honor a request made by her family.
"When I ran four years ago, I promised my family I would end my service in 2010, and I have to honor that," said McAfee, who has openly questioned the superintendent selection process and the naming of Murfree. "It's been a real privilege to serve District 4 and be a part of many of the improvements in the Dougherty County School System. I will continue my service very actively until December this year."
McAfee was with Tharin when the latter announced her candidacy Tuesday and said she was happy to endorse her. McAfee was unaware of Tharin's interest in the Board until the candidate called her recently to find out McAfee's intentions of running again. Tharin then asked McAfee a number of questions before making her decision to run.
"This is a great lady with a finance background and an Auburn graduate," McAfee said. "She has no personal agenda or political agenda. She's all about public service. She's going to be good. She's well aware of what's going on, and I'm just pleased she's stepping forward today."
In other qualifying news of local interest, state House 151 incumbent Carol Fullerton qualified for the Democratic primary Tuesday, while Mike Keown of Coolidge became the third Republican to qualify for the U.S. House District 2 seat currently held by Sanford Bishop.
Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher contributed to this report.