After securing her second term on the Bibb County school board, Thelma Dillard said she’s been motivated to work even harder for schools and students.
Throughout Tuesday’s election, Dillard spoke with some of her supporters after they had cast their votes.
“They were excited and enthused about voting for me, and I don’t take that lightly,” she said.
Dillard, who has been on the school board since 2012, defeated challenger Tina Dennard by picking up 64.62 percent of the vote in the District 2 race. The healthy victory margin indicated that voters in the district were “loyal to my work,” Dillard said.
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Dillard, who had a 40-year career as an educator, also served on Macon City Council for 20 years. During her time on the school board, she has held all three officer positions — treasurer, vice president and president.
“I want to believe that they trust me,” Dillard said of her supporters. “I want to believe they know I’ll get the job done.”
Current school board President Lester Miller said he thought the fact that Dillard was “strongly supported by teachers” helped her defeat Dennard, whom he credited with an aggressive campaign for the seat.
“It looks like the people in that district actually looked at the issues and saw that Dr. Dillard was the right person for that position,” he said.
Miller added that Dillard’s victory was key to keeping the “momentum” the district has going under Superintendent Curtis Jones, who took the helm in April 2015. Continuing that work, particularly in focus areas such as reading, has Dillard’s full attention now that her place on the board is secure.
“My focus is there now,” she said.
Two other Bibb school board races are going to a July 26 runoff, with Sundra Woodford facing off against James Timley in District 5 and incumbent Jason Downey taking on Bob Easter in District 6.
In Tuesday’s election, Timley took 43.41 percent of the vote, with Woodford picking up 41.86 percent.
“I’m motivated. I’m inspired,” Woodford said. “I’m excited to have this opportunity.”
Woodford, the manager of neighborhood revitalization for the Macon Area Habitat for Humanity, added that her campaign really didn’t get “geared up” until after the early voting period had wrapped up. With a fresh start in the race, she’s hoping she’s less of an unknown now.
“I think now people know who I am, and I hope they will do research,” she said, noting that parental involvement was still her main priority.
Timley, a retired educator, could not be reached for comment.
Miller said it would be up to candidates to send out a message that will “resonate with the voters” in order to win the runoff. Since there is no incumbent in District 5, with Tom Hudson serving his third and final term, Miller’s aspirations for that race came down to what’s best for the district and the county as a whole.
“What I want to see for that seat is someone who’s going to adequately represent that district and support Dr. Jones,” he said.
Miller supports incumbent Jason Downey in the District 6 runoff, but Downey has ground to make up in his battle with Bob Easter.
Easter came out on top Tuesday with 48.54 percent of the vote to Downey’s 39.44 percent. Easter was excited to have come that close to unseating the incumbent vice president of the school board.
“To make that showing, I’m very proud,” Easter said.
Easter has campaigned on the premise that the board and the district need change to succeed.
“It’s clear that the folks that came out and supported me tonight wanted change,” he said Tuesday night.
Downey was not available for comment.