3 vie for Houston school board District 6 post

alopez@macon.comApril 23, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Sheila Ashley is an advocate for parents. Hoke Morrow is a businessman with Houston County football in his blood. And Griff Clements, a veteran of the school board, wants to regain the seat he lost.

The three are running for the District 6 at-large seat on the Houston County school board. Jim Maddox, the current District 6 board member, is not seeking re-election.

Ashley, a pastor; Clements, the Warner Robins city surveyor; and Morrow, a Perry small-business owner, are known throughout the community and are working to meet parents, teachers and administrators throughout the school system before the May 20 vote.

On Saturday, they are confirmed to speak at a 4 p.m. candidate forum hosted by the Houston Democrats at the Wellston Center on Maple Street in Warner Robins.

The school board position pays $300 per month, plus $50 for attending called meetings beyond the monthly work session and the monthly meeting.

Advocating for parents

A former teenage mother, Ashley, 44, said she now works so others don’t make the same mistakes she did.

She is the pastor at a small Warner Robins congregation, Total Agape Healing & Deliverance Ministries, along with her husband, and has worked as an advocate for parents in Houston County since 2005. She is currently the parent-teacher organization president at Northside Elementary School.

“I am dedicated to the families of this community,” she said, “and I’m totally in love with the students of this community.”

She said she works with parents of children with special needs or those who experience academic or behavioral problems to ensure they have all the resources available to them.

“The parents that I’ve been speaking to, the majority of them don’t know how to begin,” Ashley said. “They don’t know how to approach the proper people to assist them. And when they get to those people, most of them don’t feel like they have the right to speak up for their children.”

As a member of the board, she said, she would work to ensure all parents feel welcome to work with the district and are provided everything they need to make decisions in the best interest of their kids.

‘A proven track record’

Clements, 67, designs water, sewer and gas systems for the city of Warner Robins. He held the District 6 board of education position from 2003 until 2010 when he lost to Maddox. He said he still feels the need to serve and be a part of the Houston County school district.

“It’s such a fine system,” he said.

He cited several school board accomplishments from his time in office, including overseeing numerous construction projects, ensuring teachers were assigned to work in their areas of expertise and working to select the last three superintendents.

During the mid-2000s, the district moved away from considering out-of-state superintendents to selecting only in-house candidates, he said. The district went from brothers Danny and David Carpenter to Robin Hines, all of whom had many years in Houston County before being appointed.

“Bringing somebody up through the system, they know the system and they know the people. It seemed to work real well,” Clements said.

Clements has been married for 44 years and has three children and seven grandchildren. He has worked for Warner Robins for 16 years after running his own company for 12 years.

“I have a proven track record, and I bring something that’s kind of unique to the board in that I deal with construction and have a business background,” he said.

Following in his father’s footsteps

Inside Morrow’s office in Perry, a special photograph hangs on the wall.

Taken sometime in the 1970s, the photo captured his father coaching the Perry High School football team from the sidelines. Standing next to him as a child, Morrow, now 48, served as the team water boy.

Nowadays Morrow continues the family tradition of working during Perry High football games by marking the line of scrimmage on the team’s chain crew.

“I’m an advocate of sports,” Morrow said, adding that he thinks his father would have been proud of his decision to run for the school board.

Morrow has been the president of Hoke’s Heating & Air, a company that employs 24 people, for almost 12 years. He currently serves on the Perry High council, where his daughter attends.

“I am an advocate for Houston County,” he said. “I want to be a positive influence on the changes to come. We’re building schools all the time, we have a good SPLOST system in place, and I want to be a part of that.”

Before starting his own business, Morrow worked for Houston County schools in maintenance. He said as a board member he would look out for support staff and work to ensure they have access to retirement plans.

“The teachers have good retirements,” he said, “but I want to make sure everybody that works in the county is protected, that you can put 30 to 40 years in and retire comfortably.”

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 256-9751.

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