Originally created 10/24/06

Contenders say public must have more access



In his one year in office, A.K. Hasan has shaken up the establishment and created waves on the school board. Now three political challengers are seeking to unseat him.

In the most crowded Richmond County Board of Education race, Mr. Hasan is facing Venus Cain, Winsome H. Wellington and James Williams Jr. to represent Super District 9.

"My critics have always criticized me for being too successful at what I'm doing that they don't agree with," Mr. Hasan said.

He won a special election last November when Johnny Hatney resigned to successfully run for the Augusta Commission. Since then, Mr. Hasan has stirred controversy by questioning the legality of Superintendent Charles Larke's contract, making an issue of the superintendent's compensation and lately pushing the need for a new superintendent after Dr. Larke announced his retirement.

Although the four candidates have varied backgrounds and reasons for running, all say they want to bridge the gap between the public and its school system.

"I would make myself available 24 hours," Mrs. Wellington said.

She said she decided to run after speaking with parents, friends and neighbors who told her there was no one to take their concerns to.

"It's a lot of bureaucracy even getting to the school board," Mrs. Wellington said.

Many parents would be satisfied with a simple returned call to say their concerns are being checked on, she said.

Mr. Williams said people are looking for trust and dependability.

"People need to know someone is there for them and won't leave them out of the process," he said.

Whether it be "day or night," Mr. Williams said, he will be there for his constituents.

"I understand the plight of people," he said.

Mrs. Cain said the board has lost its focus, which should be on children. She said that having served five years in the Army and 10 years in the reserve, she has the leadership skills to get the mission accomplished.

"You are forced to learn to work together. You are forced to find ways to be successful, so you don't have time to have personalities ... to get in the way because you have a mission or a job in front of you that has to be accomplished," she said.

Her military service also demonstrated her responsibility in overseeing millions of dollars in equipment, she said, something she still does at her job at Fort Discovery.

Mr. Williams has experience with schools and youths, having served as a mentor at various times and serving in leadership positions for the PTAs at Southside Elementary, Levi White Elementary, A.C. Griggs School and C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet School.

"We have a good system, and we need to improve on what we have," he said, calling Richmond County one of the best school systems in the state.

Mr. Williams said he has a plan to bring the community together and will be a good leader if given the chance.

Mrs. Cain has been active in the community, currently serving on the Augusta Aviation Commission, which has produced a "top-notch, state-of-the-art" aviation facility. She has also worked with the Neighborhood Alliance Association and is a former president of the Windsor Spring Elementary PTA. The winner of the Super District 9 race will represent half of Richmond County, an area composed of districts 1, 2, 4 and 5.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

VENUS CAIN


Age: 50


Family: Husband, Al; two children; two grandchildren


Education: Attended college in Wilmington, Calif.


Profession: Logistics specialist at Fort Discovery


Political experience: None




A.K. HASAN


Age: 51


Family: Son, Aqeel Khatib; daughter-in-law, Lee; two granddaughters


Education: Graduate of Lucy C. Laney High School and Augusta Area Technical School, now Augusta Technical College


Profession: Realtor for Blanchard and Calhoun


Political experience: Richmond County Board of Education, 1982-86 and 2005-present; Augusta City Council, 1988-89




WINSOME H. WELLINGTON


Age: 41


Family: Husband, Lincoln; five children; five grandchildren


Education: Bachelor's degree in business from University of Phoenix


Profession: None


Political experience: None




JAMES WILLIAMS JR.


Age: 61


Family: Two sons; a granddaughter


Education: Graduate of Laney High School, bachelor's degree in organizational management from Voorhees College; master's degree in management from Southern Wesleyan University


Profession: Property manager at Taliafaro Inc., minister at Green Grove Missionary Baptist Church


Political experience: None


For more about the elections, log on to www.augustachronicle.com/election.