Chipley’s Kiwanis Clubs Political Forum Day One
CHIPLEY - Chipley’s Kiwanis Club and Florida Panhandle Tech College were set for a rousing day of political hot topics as five political hopefuls took to the stand to give their thoughts on issues surrounding the county.
As Chipley’s Mayor Tracy Andrews served as moderator for the event: Candidates for offices of Supervisor of Elections Corey Odom; Superintendent of Schools Joe Taylor (incumbent) and Martha Compton; and Washington County Commission District 5, Steve Joyner (incumbent) and Lynn Gothard each gave 30 minutes on the issues.
Supervisor of Election candidates Carol Rudd, and Chris Hyatt were unable to attend the event.
In the forum for the county commissioners Lyn Gothard, who is a previous county commissioner, said she believed that the three believed one of the most important issues facing the county included the broadband internet capability.
“Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic right now, it is critical,” Gothard said.
Gothard said he broadband capability in the south-end of the county is poor and needs to be addressed, especially in view of the fact that many people, including children will have to rely on it in the future for jobs and schooling in the wake of COVID. In addition she said she also wants to continue working on the Highway 77 business corridor project to get more business in the area. Gothard said she feels we need more businesses near the interstate as part of the capital improvement as well as a multi use venue to attract large gatherings for social occasions and to use in times of emergencies as a shelter. Gothard also believed offering some services to the South end of the county for residents who cannot get to Chipley due to work was needed.
Incumbent Steve Joyner said he agreed that internet is one of the biggest issues in the county and said the county is currently working with a provider who said they can provide a service that can be effective.
“But technology has changed alot over the past few years and several systems have failed.” Joyner said.
Joyner said the county will meet with the providers and run tests to make sure they will be able to provide the services needed for residents. He also said he wants to continue to eliminate the county’s debt, something he says he has been working hard for since he took office. He also believed roadwork was a needed project for the county.
In the superintendent forum, Martha Compton, currently Director of Florida Panhandle Technical College said broadband and Covid were amond the top two issues facing the district at this time. She said some of the other issues she sees facing the district at this time include teacher salaries and recruitment and retention.
“We should do everything to make our teachers enjoy where their working,” Compton said. “To make our students feel pride in their schools...having quality schools is so important.”
Compton also said Vernon Middle and Elementary schools needed attention, including new restrooms and draining problems that needed to be addressed. She said working with the community, in addition to the district was an imperative part of what a superintendent should do to ensure the success of their role and the success of the district itself and did not believe the district should implement higher taxes and should draw on other reserves.
Superintendent Joe Taylor said right now COVID had changed the entire way the county was looking at the way the schools were looking at schools. He said they were going to have to look at student enrollment and safety.
“Superintendent is the leading guiding force within the district itself,” Taylor said. “Their are other partners and players and within that position you have to play within that.”
Overseeing the day to day operations of the district is what Taylor said is the most important part of being a superintendent. He said that he believed higher taxes would provide better education to students including the half-cent tax and that the district would prove based on student success rate that the higher taxes were justified.
“We have things, [including technology] that other district cant even dream of,” he said.
In the political forum for Supervisor of Election, Cory Odom said she believed that the supervisor should be out in the schools more, educating students at an earlier age and should be more accessible to the public.
“You should be able to know where the supervisor is anytime during normal working business hours,” Odom said. “If you call the supervisor’s office and they are not their some should be able to tell you where they are at all times.”
Odom also said she feels the supervisor’s roll is a full time job and as such they should be out in the community when they are not in the office assisting as needed in other government municipalities. Odom said she would like to work with other local agencies that have stopped using the Supervisor of Elections equipment to renew that partnership in,“ as little or as much as they see fit.”
To view the complete political forums, go to the Chipley Kiwanis Club Facebook Page.