Newly elected PRC board member Crabtree looks forward to challenge; about 10 percent of registered voters turn out

Published 8:32 pm Friday, November 6, 2009

Newly elected District 5 board member Twila Crabtree said on Thursday that she looks forward to the challenge of being a Pearl River County school board member.

“I accomplished what I sat out to do, and that was to get elected. I look forward to the challenges we will be facing next year, and as everyone knows, it will have a lot to do with our finances, what with recent budget cuts,” she said after Tuesday’s election.

Crabtree unseated incumbent Margie Creel by a vote of 127 to 114, only a 13-vote margin. About 10 percent of the registered voters in District 5 cast ballots in the election. There are 2,035 registered voters in the district.

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Crabtree said that everyone she talked to expected a low turn-out because there were no other races on the ballot.

“I was told not to expect a big turn-out because of the absence of other races on the ballot,” she said. “But I am happy with the results, despite the low turn-out. I did what I set out to do.”

Incumbent Margie Creel said she had “no comment.”

Creel, when her term ends on Dec. 31, will have served one six-year term as a school board member. She ran six years ago and beat out three opponents to win the seat formerly occupied by Darris Moeller, who decided not to seek re-election.

The five school board members are all elected, with the election of each one staggered to give the board continuity. The superintendent’s position is also an elected office and that makes the school board the only fully elected school board in the county.

Creel actually out-polled Crabtree in two of the three precincts, but a large vote for Crabtree in the Salem box put here over the top.

The results by precinct were: Salem: Crabtree 104, Creel 83; Sycamore: 9, 14; and Caesar: 14, 17.

Crabtree is a Bakersfield, Calif., native and has lived here for 12 years.

Said Crabtree, “I canvassed the whole district, and I realized what a huge task it was, so I got some people to help me, and I thank those who helped. I realized that there might not be a good turn-out so I worked real hard.”

She said the idea of running for the board occurred to her about four years ago when her son entered high school.

Crabtree’s election sets up the scenario of having two new school board members occupy their seats in only a matter of months. Crabtree will be sworn in at the regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 4.

At the regularly scheduled school board meeting on Monday, sworn in was newly appointed school board member Bonnie Sanders, who will fill the District 2 unexspired term of Byron Stockstill, who resigned on Aug. 12, citing conflicts with his job schedule.

The replacement of Stockstill fell to the board since the election for the District 2 seat is over six months away. The next District 2 election will be held on Dec. 31, 2011.

Sanders works at Stennis and Crabtree works as a grant writer and formerly worked at PRCC as a grant administrator.

Both have children in the PRC school system.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the PRC board is on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 6 p.m. The meeting was moved up a day so it would not conflict with the Picayune Christmas parade.

The board routinely meets on the first Monday of each month, but can call for special meetings during the month or recess to another day during the month before the regularly scheduled meeting.

When Crabtree is sworn in on Jan. 4, the board will have a full compliment of board members and will be, as Crabtree pointed out, facing financial challenges next year. The school system recently absorbed a half-million-dollar cut in state funding because state tax collections have weakened.

Picayune and Poplarville also absorbed cuts, and school officials have said they expect more cuts in the coming months.

The Pearl River County school district covers mainly the central portion of the county. Poplarville and Picayune operate under separate municipal-type systems.

After Crabtree is sworn in on Jan. 4, the board will consist, besides Crabtree, of the following members: Sanders, Sherwin Taylor, Michelle Boyd and Jeff Jones.

Dennis E. Penton is the superintendent of the system.