RALEIGH — J.B. Buxton, a former state education official and senior education adviser to then-Gov. MikeEasley, is weighing a bid for Raleigh mayor, saying the city's next leader must be a forceful advocate for quality schools.
Buxton would be the first Democrat in the race to succeed Mayor Charles Meeker, who announced in May that he wouldn't seek a sixth consecutive term. The election is Oct. 11.
A mayor can use the bully pulpit to emphasize the role of a school system in recruiting jobs and fostering a healthy economy, said Buxton, now an education consultant.
"That doesn't mean you are wading into all of the issues that a superintendent or school board get into," he said. "The quality of your schools is going to be directly related to the quality of your workforce. You have to play a productive role in making sure the schools are meeting the needs of your community."
Buxton, 41, is among the critics of a new Wake County student assignment plan that opponents fear will create high-poverty schools that lack racial and socioeconomic diversity.
Buxton plans to make a decision in the next week or so. The filing period runs through Aug. 12.
The two declared candidates are City Councilwoman Nancy McFarlane, who will run as an independent, and real estate executive Billie Redmond, a Republican.
Buxton was deputy state superintendent in the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and also served as an education policy adviser for the White House Domestic Policy Council under President Bill Clinton. Buxton also ran in 2004 for state superintendent of public instruction but lost to eventual winner June
Atkinson in the Democratic primary.
As it grows into a major metropolitan area, Raleigh must find ways to expand transit, protect the water supply and attract new industry, Buxton said.
A native of New Hampshire, Buxton attended UNC-Chapel Hill on a Morehead Scholarship and has lived in Raleigh for most of the past 20 years, calling himself "one of those Yankees who wouldn't go home."
Meeker, a Democrat, has not shied from criticizing recent decisions by the school board's Republican majority. Last fall, the mayor floated a plan to assemble a group of town mayors who would select "high level" residents to scrutinize proposed student assignment shifts.
Meeker also said the five Republican board members "are not from the area" and "don't share our values."
Meeker is a lawyer who was raised in Washington but moved to Raleigh in 1975. His wife, Dr. Anne McLaurin, is a member of the Democratic minority.
Like her husband, McLaurin will not seek re-election this fall.
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