Election buffet offers chance for meaningful change

With the filing period for the May primary having ended on Wednesday, one thing is clear: There will be change in key leadership positions in Robeson County this year.

But will the county see change where it is so desperately needed, on the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education? During this election cycle, unlike too many in the past, there is a chance that could happen because there are plenty of candidates — and not just retreads.

As expected, Sheriff Ken Sealey did not file for re-election, but five others did, all Democrats, and their resumes are impressive, flush with law enforcement experience. It will be needed as this county’s crime problem, the worst in the state, is so debilitating in many ways, especially in our ability to attract industry and talent to come live here. The campaign, as with all sheriff’s races, promises to be nasty and divisive, but we can all cross our fingers and hope that credentials matter on May 8.

Likewise there will be a credentialed crew of candidates to replace Johnson Britt, who has decided not to seek a seventh term. Three assistant district attorneys have filed for the position, and all are young and qualified. They are signing up for what appears to be an impossible task, which is to keep the line of criminal defendants — especially those who are violent — moving through the courthouse so that justice can be somewhat swift, and the public protected.

We say it again and again, but there are more than 100 accused murderers awaiting trial in Robeson County, and a disquieting number are out on bail and walking the streets. Somehow we have to shorten that line, but how can that be done when there are more than 50 murders in Robeson County last year alone, a higher number than in some states?

Change will come to the Board of Commissioners as Noah Woods, the longest serving member who was first elected in 1990, has not filed for what would be an eighth term. Woods’ health has betrayed him, and this newspaper wishes him the best and thanks him for his service to the community, both as a commissioner and an educator.

There are competitive races in three of the four districts for county commission, and the possibility exists for a titanic shift in the power structure on that board. But that will require a strong turnout from those who want change away from commissioners motivated by self-interest and toward those inspired to serve the public. Well-financed hauling machines that are vested in the status quo stand in the way.

There are 14 candidates for four seats on the Board of Education, which unlike the county commissioners, does see frequent turnover, but so far not to the benefit of our local system. There are multiple candidates who are well-qualified, having benefited from an education, but they are politically untested. The public appears ready for change, weary of being shackled with arguably the worst school system in the state.

We are told that every race for the General Assembly is contested, with both the state Republican and Democratic parties taking the position that they would not surrender a single seat without a fight. That is a good thing — and it also explains the 11th-hour filing of a couple of candidates that have us and others scratching our heads and wondering what the point is.

It will be an interesting 67 days until May 8, and even after that day, there will be a few races to be decided in November because of a handful of Republican candidates. We encourage those seeking office to share their vision, and ask that the message includes how they plan to bring about change.

Everyone wants less crime, more jobs and better schools, but actual ideas should be needed to garner support.