Former Schools chief challenging Commissoner Mark Baker
Dr. Don Martin, the former superintendent of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, is hoping to serve county residents in a new capacity this year.
Martin, who retired in 2013 after serving as superintendent for nearly 20 years, is challenging incumbent Mark Baker, a fellow Republican, for his District B Forsyth County Board of Commissioners seat.
“I’ve worked with the County Commissioners for a lot of years and I think I’ve got a few things to offer,” said the Duke University alumnus, who currently serves as a professor in the newly-created Educational Leadership program in High Point University’s School of Education. “…Sometimes it’s a case where age and experience makes a difference, and I think I bring a lot of experience to the position.”
Baker, a King native and High Point University graduate, ran two unsuccessful campaigns for a seat on the seven-member Commissioners board before being appointed to fill Debra Conrad’s seat after she won election to the N.C. House. The highlights of his time on the board include helping to find a way to address the multi-million dollar shortfall caused by starkly lower property tax revaluations, supporting the renovation of the Central Library at its existing site rather than relocating it and creating a process where citizens could give feedback on the county services they utilize, Baker said.
“We worked hard to cut spending where we could and not do revenue neutral tax increase,” stated the father of two, who serves as principal of middle and high schools at Salem Baptist Christian School. “…My philosophy of government has always been that government should be limited in what it does and what it does should always be efficient.”
Baker, a former member of the Tobaccoville Village Council who has served the student body at Salem Baptist for 16 years, believes his work experience has prepared him well for the job. If re-elected, Baker said he would work to make the county the most business friendly in the state.
“We’ve got a great county,” he declared. “It’s a great place to live and work and I just want to be a servant of the community and make it even better.”
Martin says his 19 years’ experience as superintendent have afforded him a unique perspective and an understanding of the challenges commissioners face in balancing the budget, allocating funds, and addressing the needs and desires of county residents.
“I’ve submitted 19 budgets to them,” he said, noting that the school system’s budget accounts for roughly one-third of the county’s overall expenditure. “Of course, not only do I know the school system budget well, I have a general working knowledge of the county budget.”
Martin, the 2011 N.C. Superintendent of the Year, says his years in the superintendent’s office have taught him many soft skills that he believes would also serve him well as a commissioner.
“As a school superintendent, I’ve done a lot of listening and I think over the years, I’ve developed a talent for asking the right questions,” he said. “What I did as a school superintendent is try to solve a lot of problems … the County Commission is all about serving the county. It’s looking at what the county needs, what the county wants. You try to listen and ask the right questions and work on those things.”
A self-described moderate Republican and fiscal conservative, Martin said he would work to protect the county’s prestigious AAA budget rating and support initiatives that foster economic growth, such as the rapidly developing Innovation Quarter (IQ) downtown and projects that improve the quality of life and will attract residents to the area. If elected, Martin said he would work to address some of the issues he sees, but he is quick to acknowledge that he doesn’t have all the answers, yet.
“One of the most important things about running for office is recognizing that you never know all the details until you’re there,” said the Athens, Georgia native, who is expecting his third grandchild.
Vic Johnson, a longtime School Board member, says he wholeheartedly supports Martin’s bid for the seat.
“I think he would be an asset,” declared Johnson, who has served on the school board since the late 1990’s. “He knows a lot about what’s going on in the community so he should be there, that’s the next step that he should take. I hope the people get out and vote, because we need him.”
Baker says he also has support on the school board, having won endorsements from several current members, including Irene May, Buddy Collins and Jeannie Metcalf.
For more information about Mark Baker, visit www.electmarkbaker.com. For more information about Don Martin, visit www.donmartin4commissioner.com.