Two former military men, both of whom say they are disappointed by the Beaufort County Board of Education, will run against each other in the Nov. 6 election for the board's District 5 seat.
Representing Burton and portions of Beaufort, the seat is currently held by board member Geri Kinton, who said last fall she plans to vacate when her term ends.
Seven of the 11 board seats are up for re-election. Just one sitting board member so far, Cynthia Gregory-Smalls, has filed to run again. Those interested in running for school board have until noon Aug. 15 to file for candidacy.
Richard Geier, a retired Army officer, and Ray Johnson, a former helicopter pilot for the Army, recently filed paperwork to run. Both said this was their first time running for elected office.
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Geier, 69, said he spent 30 years in the Army, six of which at Fort Knox, Ky. It was there Geier was appointed to serve four years on the Fort Knox school board from 1996 to 2000.
Geier has lived in the district for a decade and has two grandsons in public schools, one of whom he said went months without a math teacher at Lady's Island Middle School. He also mentioned a neighbor who worked briefly at Robert Smalls International Academy before quitting.
"Now (the neighbor) is working at Beaufort Academy and loving life," he said. "So what's driving people out?"
He said he has served on three local boards: the Friends of Hunting Island, HELP of Beaufort and the Battery Point Homeowners Association.
Geier has attended several board meetings in the past year. His campaign platform includes higher teacher salaries, increased professionalism at meetings and more transparency from the district. He said he supports releasing federal subpoenas related to the construction of two Bluffton schools in an FBI investigation.
Johnson, 70, has lived in Beaufort County for three years.
"I’m a firm believer that the children of our country, they are the future," he said. "I hope to bring a sense of decorum and leadership and to be open and accountable to our citizens of this community."
He said he spent 43 years as a military officer, both on active duty and with the National Guard. He also worked for Maryland's state police and for the Federal Aviation Administration.
He has three children and eight grandchildren, though none have attended district schools.
Johnson said he is a former volunteer for Help of Beaufort, runs the Neighborhood Watch program for the Habersham community and completed the Beaufort County Senior Leadership program offered by Clemson University.
Asked if any person or group encouraged him to run, Johnson said it was actually the opposite.
"My wife discouraged me," he said. "My neighbors are saying why do you want this headache?"
Johnson attended a few recent board meetings. "I've never ever in my entire life seen a board with such hatred, contempt and disrespect for each other."