According to Me: Speak now or forever…

There are holes to fill. And here is the reality of the situation whether you want to hear it or not: if you don’t speak up now, nobody cares if you speak up then.

The Demopolis City Council will make an appointment of one citizen to the Demopolis City Schools Board of Education. The vacancy opened up when Ronnie O’Neal declined to be considered for a second term.

The appointment will be for a five-year term. And if the new board member gets a second appointment – which almost always happens – the appointment represents a 10-year tenure on the board. Think about the magnitude of that. The individual appointed by the council will have one of only five votes to determine the direction of the city’s school system for the next decade.

Among the first votes to be cast by that person will be one in favor of hiring the new superintendent, a vacancy that will be officially created June 30 when Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Al Griffin retires.

There have been plenty of complaints about the city schools over the last few years. Discipline. Declining enrollment. Losing good teachers. Lack of administrative transparency. And this thing. And that problem. And the other problem.

As citizens of the United States, it is our innate right to voice our displeasure. It is also our innate right to understand how our government works and get involved in the process. And if you don’t get involved in the process on the front end, you don’t have much room to complain when the result gets dumped out the back end.

So, speak now or forever…you get the picture. Call a city councilman or the mayor and tell them who you’d like to see fill that board spot. And if they appoint someone with whom you’re not comfortable, use that right as an American citizen to vote for somebody else in the next election.

And call a board of education member and stress to them the qualities you would like to see in the next superintendent. And if they don’t follow through, well, that’s too bad because they’re in there for a long time.

In my hometown, the superintendent is elected. On the Marengo County Board of Education, members are elected. We have a unique system in Demopolis in which the superintendent is hired by a board that is appointed by a council that is elected. There is only one link in that chain of command that the average, everyday citizen has a genuine power to influence. So use that voice that is one of the inalienable rights with which you have been endowed to make a difference on the front end of this latest education appointment because the fact is that your voice won’t make the slightest bit of difference on the back end.

Jeremy D. Smith is managing partner of The West Alabama Watchman. He has covered news and sports in Demopolis since 2008. His column, According to Me, appears weekly on