Two more join School Board race

ALBANY, Ga. -- Whether Albany citizens are responding to a growing sense of dissatisfaction over actions of the Dougherty County School Board or there is just a building sense of political activism in the community, the races for three seats on the Board have generated a great deal of attention.

Two more contenders -- both Democrats and both in District 2 -- qualified to run for the School Board seat currently held by Milton Griffin. The announcements of Lynda Weaver and Sherrell Elise Byrd by Dougherty Democratic Party Chair Constance Burkes Wednesday brought to four the number of candidates running for incumbent Griffin's seat.

Griffin qualified for re-election on Monday, and Republican Donnie Smith announced her candidacy the next day.

Meanwhile, retired educator Dean Phinazee and retired financial services representative Carol Tharin have qualified to run for the District 4 and District 6 seats being vacated by Michael Windom and Emily Jean McAfee, respectively.

In Lee County, the second of two Republican County Commission incumbents qualified Wednesday to seek re-election to his seat. Ed Duffy, the Commission's chairman, officially entered the race Wednesday morning, a day after returning from a trip to Savannah with other Lee officials.

"I would like to continue working in concert with the Board of Commissioners to further the progress we have made in the last four years," Duffy said shortly after qualifying. "In this period, we have not raised the millage rate, we have installed ambulance service on (U.S.) Highway 82, which has cut response time from 27 minutes to approximately 5 or 6 -- which in turn has saved lives -- and we are in the process of finishing a fire/EMS station in Smithville.

"We have built a new animal shelter utilizing SPLOST funds and donations, and we have eliminated the commercial and industrial impact fees to invite commercial developers to invest in Lee County. It will be my pledge to continue to diligently seek commercial entities to locate in the county, therefore increasing local option sales tax, which in turn takes the burden off the county's taxpayers."

Duffy said the Commission had proved to be good stewards of taxpayer money in the four years of his first term.

"In this economic slowdown, we have been able to build our fund balance from $1.9 million to $6.2 million," he said. "We have held department heads accountable to staying within their budgets, and we haven't had to furlough any of our employees."

With only two days left in partisan qualifying for July 20 primaries, the only challenger who has surfaced in the races for Lee's District 1 and District 3 Commission seats, currently held respectively by Dennis Roland and Duffy, is Mary Egler, who has announced plans to run as an Independent for district 1.

No challengers have surfaced so far in the race for the Dougherty Commission chairmanship, held by Jeff Sinyard, while retired DNR administrator Ewell Lyle qualified for the District 4 Commission seat being vacated by Dr. Chuck Lingle. Republican Lonnie Smith, husband of School Board candidate Donnie, has qualified to take on incumbent Democrat John Hayes for the District 2 Commission seat.

On the state level, the qualifying of incumbent District 12 Sen. Freddie Powell Sims late Tuesday and House District 150 Rep. Winfred Dukes Wednesday left all four members of Dougherty County's legislative delegation unopposed heading into the final two days of qualifying.

Candidates have until noon Friday to complete paperwork and pay qualifying fees.