Tears and Laughter: How not to campaign in Wilcox County

I’m no Steve Flowers okay, but let’s discuss Wilcox County politics.

If you have held elected office in this county for decades and are once again seeking reelection, don’t brag. It is not going to serve you well.

If you already know that a simple Google search of your name is going to bring up a questionable history and a mugshot, don’t act like you have been a savior of children and a mentor of men.

Just being born here puts kids at a disadvantage, so don’t print lies on campaign signs so far-fetched people almost wreck from laughing when they read them.

Wilcox County is such a great place in so many ways. I know driving through it may seem like nothing, and it does look like we clean out all the beer bottles and empty Newport packs out of our cars at intersections, but it is such a pretty county in some places. Tranquility really does exist here sometimes, like on the edge of daybreak, when fog floats across the river or when listening to big drop rain falling in June. But not everything here is beautiful. Headlines that make it across the county line are seldom positive.

Wilcox has such a well-documented and proven record of illegal absentee voter fraud, vote buying, and voting abnormalities that we probably stay on the Secretary of State’s radar screen. And rightly so I guess. For that matter, maybe he should keep watching because we have some of our all-stars returning to the ballot this year, and some of them know tricks.

There is also a blatantly clear correlation between the Wilcox County public school system – which is and has been responsible for educating the vast majority of the county’s children for generations – and the unskilled and unemployable workforce that exists here.

This link came to light after Golden Dragon Copper located in Sunny South promising to hire employees from within the county in an effort to reduce the high unemployment rate, but could not find enough qualified and competent applicants that could both add and pass a drug test.

ACT Aspire test results from the 2013/2014 tests showed that less than one percent of Wilcox County public school tenth grade students are proficient in math. Results from the eighth grade 2014/2015 tests again showed that less than one percent of students are at or above grade level.

It was also found that the problem is not funding. The Wilcox County school system is the sixth most well-funded school system out of 135 districts in the state. It has just over 11,500 students and an annual budget of over $20 million.

The problem is not overcrowded classrooms or inexperienced teachers either. Class sizes average 15 students per teacher, and the majority of teachers have over 10 years of experience. Everyone agrees the issue is not a matter of students who don’t have the ability to learn. It is almost entirely an issue of leadership.

All Wilcox County candidates who are seeking reelection, especially school board members, should try and keep this in mind as the election approaches. The work they have done will indeed speak for them. It may also haunt them, as it already precedes them and reflects poorly on the rest of us.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.