In light of your recent article about the Liberty County library board in the Coastal Courier (“Commissioners’ appointment to board questioned,” page 1A, July 10), I felt that a letter to the editor was in order. Although Ms. (Sandra Hicks) Sheffield, Mr. (Graylan) Quarterman and the (Liberty County Branch of the) NAACP were allowed to speak and their words to be summarized in the newspaper, I was not afforded that opportunity. These people were added to the agenda at the last minute. Because I was teaching, I could not attend. The Coastal Courier did not contact me or my husband, so I will have to be content with this letter.
Who would have thought that something so well-intentioned would end up in this mess? I volunteered to help; I had the time and ability to do so. I felt the same way when I volunteered to teach Sunday school or to help with field trips. The world needs more helpers; I was available. I am qualified, and I bring a diversity that is perhaps lacking on the library board. I am a longtime science teacher with a strong background in physics and chemistry; I also teach biology at the collegiate level. I have spent most of my life, more than three decades, with teenagers, and I observe what they don’t read. I felt that I could bring something to this board that would be beneficial. I am stunned, and saddened, that I am so vilified in this situation with the library board. Honestly, I just wanted to help, and I knew that I could.
I am also concerned with attempts to thwart the democratic process. Although the county attorney has repeatedly stated that no policies were violated, it has been implied that I was not legally appointed. Let me say that first, I received the appointment by five of the six people in attendance: Donald Lovette, Gary Gilliard, Justin Frasier, Pat Bowen and my husband, Eddie Walden. All in attendance knew who had applied and what positions they might have held. The majority vote was in my favor. This is how democracy works.
Yes, my husband voted for me, but I had the majority without him. His vote was not necessary for my appointment. There is no conflict of interest here, as I will be giving to the community rather than taking from the community. Also, Mrs. (LaMonica) Jenkins, whose husband sits on the (Hinesville) City Council, is also on the library board. I have heard of no discussion concerning conflict of interest there.
As to the questions of a late application, apparently there is no barrier to this. As a teacher, I set due dates for my and my students’ benefit, but I have often adjusted the date as the need arose, both for me and my students.
I am sure governing bodies do the same, as the county attorney has stated. I am also sure that if we were able to check the records, I am not the first to be appointed with a late application. In fact, I understand that some have been appointed with no application at all.
In the end, I am most deeply troubled by Mr. Lovette’s behavior. He voted for me over Ms. Sheffield, knowing all of the above. Approached earlier, Mr. Lovette stated that I would be an excellent candidate for the board. Yet twice he asked my husband to ask me to resign even after he voted for me. I find this very disconcerting. I am a grown woman, and this is 2016. The chairman of the Board of Commissioners need not contact my husband concerning my affairs. Our number is posted in the phone book; Mr. Lovette can call me at any time.
Having considered all of this, only one path remains open to me. Five commissioners out of six, both black and white, thought I would do a good job on the library board. All of them had reviewed the applicants and knew the situation. My duty as a citizen of this county is to make sure they voted the right way. I will listen and learn and read, and become the best library board member I can be. I will do everything I can to help this county’s library become a great place.
I know that by writing this letter, and by remaining on the library board, I have put my job and my husband’s job at great risk. Some things come at a great price, but as Mr. Quarterman said, “It is about the right thing.”