A former school principal has entered the race to replace Betty Lou Ward on the Wake County Board of Commissioners.
Greg Ford, a Democrat who in August resigned as principal of Hilburn Academy in North Raleigh to pursue public office, filed to run for the District 6 seat Tuesday. Ford is the second candidate in two days to announce a run for Ward’s seat, joining former Raleigh city councilman John Odom, a Republican who filed to run Monday.
Ward, a Democrat, has served on the board since 1988 but isn’t seeking another term.
Ford emphasized education as his top priority. “It’s tied to everything from transportation to the economy,” he said.
County commissioners are a big source of funding for the Wake County Board of Education, and voters last year elected a Democratic majority of commissioners after they campaigned to boost education funding.
Ford, 42, on Tuesday aligned himself with Democratic commissioners and noted his relationship with Wake school board chairman Tom Benton, a former principal of Durant Road Middle School who hired Ford as a teacher nearly 20 years ago.
But he faces a tougher road to victory than other Democrats because he has no political experience and, pending the primaries, will face one of the county’s longest-serving Republican officials who’s campaigning on a similar platform.
Odom – a moderate Republican who served eight, two-year terms on the Raleigh City Council – emphasized the need for higher teacher pay when he filed to run Monday. Odom, 68, lost by only 261 votes in the October council election and has also been more supportive of transit than other Republican candidates.
Ford, for his part, thinks his time as a teacher and principal has equipped him to tackle tough issues outside of education as well as anyone. Hilburn is the only Wake school to serve students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
“From navigating transportation issues, to helping families access health and human services, to supporting strong schools and carefully enacting budgets entrusted by taxpayers, being a principal has prepared me for all aspects of county business,” he said.
Ford also comes from a politically-active family. His mother, Wendy Ford, was a school board member in their home state of New York for 19 years. After moving to Wake Forest, she applied in 2013 to serve in a vacant Wake school board seat that was later awarded to Benton.
Ford said he isn’t seeking a new job because he wants to dedicate his time to the board of commissioners. He said he looks forward to comparing ideas and resumès on the campaign trail, noting that his teaching years outnumber Odom’s years in elected office.
“He almost has as many years of public service as I do,” Ford said with a laugh.
The candidate filing period ends at noon on Dec. 21.