PERRY -- Hoke Morrow said he has received advice from several sources since being elected to the Houston County Board of Education.
The 1984 Perry High School graduate has heard from his future board colleagues, among others, but his most memorable advice came from one of his former football coaches.
“He came up to me after I got elected, and he said, ‘You know, people are going to come to you with some crazy things, and they’re going to want an answer from you,’ ” Morrow recalled. “He says, ‘You don’t have to answer right then. You need to get informed and educated on it, then give them a good answer.’ ”
Morrow, who won the seat in a nonpartisan primary runoff with Sheila Ashley in July, owns Hoke’s Heating and Air in Perry, and he said that business background will be an asset. In his line of work, assessing problems is part of the job, and he expects to carry that into the boardroom.
“I think that’s what I can be, is give alternatives to bad situations,” he said. “I think ... my forte is being a troubleshooter or trying to work problems out.”
Morrow, who will be sworn in before officially taking his seat for the board’s Jan. 13 meeting, said problems make up a small part of the “great situation” he will inherit as a school board member in Houston County. Along with a solid board, he pointed to recent accomplishments at Northside High School.
Even though Morrow’s traditional allegiance lies in Perry -- where he grew up and where his father, Bob, was a football coach -- Morrow said he was glad to see the feats of his former rivals, both on the football field and elsewhere.The Eagles won the state’s Class AAAAA football championship in December.
“I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this county where we won a state championship in anything,” he said, also noting a recent performance by Northside’s state-champion One-Act Play group at a board meeting. “That was phenomenal, that one little song. I’m proud of that.”
Board Chairwoman Marianne Melnick said Morrow’s background in Houston County will serve him well on the board.
“He’s got a good perspective of where we are as a system,” she said.
Of course, along with all the celebrations Morrow will get to enjoy as a board member will come tough issues and decisions. One of the first could be the potential handling of a fight at Northside High between a student and teacher Daniel Kelly.
Kelly also is the school’s wrestling coach, which gives him a direct tie to Morrow. A volunteer wrestling coach at Perry, Morrow said he’s known Kelly a long time but will try not to let that affect his assessment of the situation.
“I don’t look forward to that, but I’m going to be open-minded,” he said. “My understanding of the due process is he’s going to get an open hearing, and when he does, I’ll look at the evidence and make a fair judgment.”
In addition to having experience as a businessman and coach, Morrow’s family has ties to the school system. His wife, Tammy, is a second-grade teacher at Kings Chapel Elementary, so Morrow said he wouldn’t be completely without the perspective of an educator.
“I think that gives me a double-edged sword, being in this position and being married to her,” he said.
Morrow has two children. His 20-year-old son, Hoke, is a student at Valdosta State University, and his daughter, 16-year-old Abbie, is a junior at Perry High School. Jim Maddox, who chose not to run for re-election for the seat Morrow will take, said Morrow will join Bryan Upshaw as the only board members with children currently in the school system.
“He’ll be one of two on the board to have a child in the system ... and I think that’s important,” Maddox said.
Morrow said being a parent “keeps you in touch” with what’s going on in the system, and that also made him want to get involved with the board.
“I just wanted to give back,” he said. “I felt like if I wanted to make a difference, now was the time to get in.”
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.