By DOTTY NIST
The Oct. 10 Walton Area Chamber of Commerce Power of Business luncheon at Sandestin’s Linkside Center featured remarks by candidates for District 1 commissioner, school superintendent, and county sheriff. The luncheon was sponsored by the Pleat & Perry law firm.
These local offices are to be decided in the General Election, since there are candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties
The first candidate to speak, incumbent Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson, a Republican, told attendees that he had promised accountability, professionalism and openness when he ran for his current term. He said he believed that he had followed through on those promises.
Adkinson highlighted the accomplishment of obtaining accreditation during his tenure, something that had not previously been achieved by the sheriff’s office. He also referenced performance measures that he has set for the office and his commitment to lifelong learning.
Adkinson told attendees that he has tried to surround himself with a quality team. “I’m very proud of the four years that we’ve had,” he said, observing that he and his personnel have dealt with everything ranging from an oil spill to murder during that time.
“Being sheriff is not a job, being sheriff is a way of life,” he concluded, adding “I don’t play golf.” Adkinson indicated that, aside from his family life, his focus is totally on being sheriff.
Danny Griffith, a Democratic candidate for county sheriff, was next to address the gathering, beginning with the fact that he was born and raised in Walton County. While moving away for a time as a Highway Patrol officer, he requested and received a transfer to Walton County and served his last 19 years with the Highway Patrol in Walton County.
Griffith said he had retired the previous year after a 39-year career with the Highway Patrol, during which he served as instructor and field training officer. He explained that for 12 years he was also an adjunct instructor in the criminal justice department at Okaloosa-Walton Community College (now Northwest Florida State College.)
Griffith highlighted his experience in small business as well, revealing that for 22 years he and his wife owned and operated a day care center in Fort Walton Beach.
Griffith pledged an open-door policy as sheriff, along with integrity and honor. “I believe it’s time for a new beginning in Walton County,” he told attendees, promising to work hard if elected to protect them and their property.
Carlene Anderson, a Republican and school superintendent for the past eight years, highlighted her 37 years of experience with the Walton County School District, during which she also served as teacher, assistant principal, and principal.
“I get to lead one of the most awesome staffs that you’ve ever known!” Anderson exclaimed.
She reminded attendees that she oversees a $98 million budget and that there has been no millage increase for the school district in the past six years. Yet, she noted, she has not closed schools and has maintained an “A” district rating for six consecutive years. She explained that the rating system has only been in existence for six years.
Anderson revealed that there has been a 42-percent increase in advance placement during her tenure, with 496 advancement placement courses being offered currently. She maintains that the graduation rate has increased by 18 percent under her leadership. “It’s about making it happen,” she told attendees.
Rosemary Ragle, a Democratic candidate for school superintendent, began by giving the group an “assignment” to research and delineate the process to change the position of school superintendent from an elected official to an official appointed by the school district. Although she is running for a four-year term in the elected seat, she supports this change taking place during that time period.
“Politics and education do not mix very well,” Ragle told the group. Based on her experiences, she likened the current process of selecting a superintendent to “locking a feral cat and a stray dog in a closet, walking away and saying, ‘The survivor will be our next superintentdent.’”
Ragle, a special education teacher in the Walton County school system, expressed dissatisfaction with the school system and dismay at the lack of progress of at-risk students. She said she worried about the fate of students with disabilities when she was no longer present to serve as their advocate.
Ragle charged that stakeholders had lost faith in the school system, that parents did not feel included, and that most employees of the district felt “disenfranchised.”
She referenced a recent report by an accreditation team that recommended measures to increase involvement with parents and stakeholder groups, the development of channels for communication with school district staff and stakeholders, and the definition of equity with regard to distribution of resources within the school system….
Read the full story in the Oct. 18, 2012 edition on the Herald Breeze.