By Collin Brooks
The longest tenured member of the Washington County Board of Education and a first-term board member won’t be able to seek reelection when their terms end next August. District 3 representatives Clarence Mabe, who was elected to the board in 2002, and Mike Masters will be unable to run for their District 3 seats as the two have been moved into District 2 according to the redistricting maps that the county approved last year.
The District 2 election was held in 2016 and won by Mary Beth Dellinger, Todd Ganger and Phil McLain. Those seats won’t be up for reelection until 2020, but six seats will be up for grabs in 2018 for Districts 1 and 3.
Mabe supported the resolution and was the lone school board member that spoke in support of the resolution before it was approved by the commission in October. He admitted that he was unaware of the consequences of the new lines, but he supported the decision if it is what is best for the county.
“If that is what is best for each side of the county to have equal representation on the board, then I am for it,” Mabe said. “It’s so important that both sides of the county be represented. The way it was, Jonesborough and Johnson City would represent the third set of school board members and at that time it would be 6-3 representation for the county.”
He said the new lines will fix that problem. Mabe’s current address has him just blocks from his old district, but he said that moving addresses isn’t something that he is thinking about. It doesn’t sound like he would be seeking another term in 2020, as he noted his age in saying that this would probably be his final year.
Masters quickly said he would be eager to seek reelection during his first opportunity in 2020, but he also agreed with Mabe in that it was better for the school district.
“In my personal opinion, I hate not to be able to run because I enjoy being on the school board, but I think the way the lines are redistricted now makes it more fair between the north and the south,” Masters said.
The first-term board member said he had no idea that he would be affected by the changes until the end of last year, after the resolution had passed.
The redistricting was a ripple effect of the Washington County Commission shrinking their number of commissioners from 25 to 15, which was approved last year. As a result, the Reapportionment Committee decided to better align the district lines of commissioners and school board members.
The redistricting normally occurs after every 10-year US Census, but can be done sooner if it improves the total deviation — which correlates to equal representation — in each zone. The school board’s deviation was improved from 8.18 percent to .30 percent. The deviation for the county commission was improved from 9.9 percent to 2.39 percent.
The county recently had a petition filed against them by Gray resident Dr. John M. Daniel, who is questioning the legality of the change. Washington County filed their response on Monday with the court, asking the case be dismissed.
Reapportionment Committee Chairman Joe Grandy said the committee didn’t really consider current lines when looking at the best way to improve the deviation of the districts.
“When the maps were being worked on there really wasn’t any consideration about who lived where or what the impact would be,” he said.
He said by doing that, it made the process a bit easier. By not discussing or looking where people lived took out the human influence or error that could occur. Grandy said he had recently heard that Mabe and Masters would be effected by the changes in lines.
“Personally they would be two of the people that have been really good school board members and it’s sad to think that we are going to lose them for a couple of years,” he said.
The Election Commission has presented an increased budget for fiscal year 2018, which takes into account a close to $109,000 increase due to expenses associated with redistricting like printing notifications and postage.
Their total budget of $771,200 is more than they requested last year ($743,428) in which they will use close to $600,000.
Grandy said the redistricting will come at an expense on the front end, but the taxpayers will recoup their investment through time, noting that reducing the commission by 10 members will free up $45,000 a year in payments.
He noted that when you reduce the other expenses associated with commissioners, you would save about $70,000 per year.
“In two years you’re going to more than recoup the cost of redistricting and then it’s that much more savings every year thereafter,” Grandy said.
When the county has to adjust the lines again, between 2021 and 2022, their investment will have already paid for itself.