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Candidates campaign for school board seat
Oliver, Smith making last-minute rounds as Tuesday election nears
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The days of campaigning for the Gainesville City Board of Education Ward 5 seat are winding down for political newcomers Eric Oliver and Sammy Smith.

Both are out making last-minute voter contacts as the Tuesday election to replace incumbent Frank Harben, who is not seeking re-election, draws near.

Oliver, 38, works in the customer service department at Turbo Logistics. He and wife Jammie have a daughter Sloan, 9, and son, Sam, 6, both students at Centennial Arts Academy. He is a member of Grace Episcopal Church.

He has coached in parks and recreation and the YMCA and is active in the Centennial PTA.

Smith, 54, is owner of the public relations firm Rainmaker & Associates. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Georgia. He is a member of Lakewood Baptist Church.

He has served on the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce board, as chairman of Rehabilitation Industries of North Georgia, as trustee at Gainesville College, on the Governor’s Council on International Trade and as Gainesville Jaycees president.

Smith also is founding director of the chamber’s school-to-work initiative and Theater Wings. He also is a corporate coordinator for Partners in Education.

He is involved with the Gainesville Boosters Club, in mentoring, as a youth apprenticeship employer and a member of the Center Point board.

Oliver said he has several priority issues if he’s elected. He would like to "foster better communication between the school board and parents, teachers and the community at large."

He also would like to promote "strong and long-term leadership" for all schools, ensure fiscal responsibility and integrity in budgeting and continue long-range planning to allow our system to grow and "meet the needs of our ever-changing community."

Oliver said his primary motivation for running for school board "is making sure (the school system) stays a competitive place and a good place to educate not only my children but everybody else’s children."

He added that "we’ve got challenges in the school system — I just want to see us continue to move forward."

Smith said he believes the key strengths of his campaign include business management and experience with public budgets.

He said he also has "expertise in understanding state and national mandates, keen knowledge of governing and a 30-year career in public communications."

"I believe in fairness, in partnering with the business community and in empowering teachers," he said. "I support exceptional learning opportunities with realistic goals. As a citizen and taxpayer, I’ve always been a part of our school system."

Smith said that "several key factors" led to his decision to run for the school board.

"First, to serve the school system and the community," he said. "Secondly, to offer my skills and talents in areas of particular need — public budgeting experience, the art and science of skillful governing, state-federal relations and communications."

Smith said he also would like to "help sustain the exceptional academic qualities of our school system."

He said also he candidly assessed his "commitment of time to be a board member who can serve the city’s taxpayers effectively."

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