ALBANY, Ga. -- Milton "June Bug" Griffin displayed a cool smile late Tuesday evening as he moved a step closer to capturing his fourth four-year term for the Dougherty County Board of Education's District 2 seat.
Griffin, 61, claimed victory over newcomer Sherrell Byrd despite Griffin admitting eight days before the Democratic primary that he hadn't "done anything" in this year's race.
Instead, Griffin was relying on his name recognition to do the talking since he said, "I've been campaigning my whole life; the person I am."
Griffin appears to have beaten Byrd, 32, by receiving 999 votes (63.5 percent) compared to Byrd's 574 votes (36.5 percent) with all of the precincts and absentee ballots reported.
Griffin still faces another challenger in the Nov. 2 general election. Donnie Smith was unopposed for the Republican nomination.
"This time I worked hard, but I feel like I didn't have to work as hard because the people knew what I stood for," said Griffin, who won 62 percent of the votes in 2006. "I just want to thank the people for still believing in me."
Griffin said he hopes in the coming weeks to be able to win over some of Byrd's supporters as he gears up to take on Smith.
"I'd like to know from them what I did wrong as to why I didn't get their votes," said Griffin, who has four grandchildren currently in the DCSS. "I'd like the people who didn't support me to come back and vote for me in November."
Smith, 73, is looking forward to competing against Griffin in November's election.
"I sincerely congratulate him on his win and I'm happy for him, but I'm looking forward to the challenge this fall in our race," she said. "I look forward to beating him, and I want to win because I feel I can do a good job and make a difference on the School Board and really do a good job for the children. Our school (system) is really in a mess."
Despite losing to Griffin, Byrd was still able to smile as she watched results come in while sitting with about 10-15 supporters at the Chill Bar and Lounge. One of those supporters, County Commissioner Christopher Pike, was at the downtown Albany establishment before she arrived.
"It was a very interesting ride," said Byrd, who held her fourth fish fry of the campaign Sunday. "I learned a lot, and no matter what happens I'm going to continue to make a difference in this community. ... I'm not done. Now that I've heard these things from our students, I feel I have to address them. I just gotta build on this momentum now. I meant it when I said I was passionate about my city."
Byrd said she had gained a great deal of insight from people and students in her district as a result of her campaign.
"There's a lot of problems that need real solutions; unfortunately, the district has spoken," she said. "We got a lot of information from the students from the KidSpeak forum. One of the major issues was the CRCT. They don't feel prepared for the test, and the teachers don't seem prepared because the kids say a lot of the material is unfamiliar, so there's a lot of disconnect.
"Another major issue was health and nutrition. A lot of the students don't think they're getting nutritious meals at all. And physical exercise is very limited, and that's across the board for elementary all the way up to high school; they want more. In fact, one elementary student told us they only went out five times to recess all school year last year."