In the end, experience mattered.
Dr. Yvette Keel, a retired educator, won the special election for the Liberty County Board of Education’s District 6 by an unofficial tally of 140 votes to 65 for Justin McCartney, an accountant for Gulfstream.
Turnout was extremely low, with the 205 votes representing a scant 5.6 percent of registered voters in the district, unofficial results provided Tuesday evening by the Liberty County Board of Elections show.
“I don’t know how to even describe the emotion,” Keel said. “I am thrilled. I am so overjoyed that so many people have been kind to me, so supportive of me, reaching out and saying, ‘What can we do for you?’ The support has been tremendous. I feel honored.”
Keel said she hopes to bring change to the Board of Education.
"I feel like our community has been looking for some change. I think that they know that I’m not going to be looking for problems, but I’m also not going to put blinders on to issues,” she said.
“I think the reason why so many people supported me and asked if I would run for the position on the board is because they truly feel like I will make my opinions known and that what I’m going to do is in the best interest of children — not having agendas for other adults, but what is best for the Liberty County schoolchildren,” she continued. “I feel like that’s the message that the people who are supporting me are sending. They want to see people watch their money and make sure that our kids are getting the best education in the classroom.”
The election was necessary after Sampie Smith, who was elected to the seat in November, stunned the board in February by abruptly resigning.
Keel is a retired Liberty County educator with years of experience as a school administrator and teacher. She viewed the seat as an opportunity to give back to the community.
Advanced voting for the special election ended last Friday, with only 89 out of 3,673 registered voters casting their ballot in District 6.
The Shuman Center, a polling place, had 38 votes cast by noon. The voting area was empty except for four poll workers and the assigned Hinesville police officer. Poll manager Lafayne May said that one to two people were coming in at a time, but it started to pick up by lunchtime. Another polling site, First Baptist Church on Memorial Drive, was empty as well. One person did show up but was turned away for living in a different district.
Despite the low turnout at these two locations, local resident Dora Sprinkel felt that it was her obligation to vote.
After voting she said, “I always vote. It’s a responsibility and an honor. This is for the board of education. So it’s about the community and our future. It’s important to vote.”