Elections

Former Wake school board member files for county commissioner seat

Susan Evans, who ran for the N.C. Senate, talks with attendees at a forum for candidates for state legislative races held at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, NC on Sept. 28, 2016.
Susan Evans, who ran for the N.C. Senate, talks with attendees at a forum for candidates for state legislative races held at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, NC on Sept. 28, 2016. cseward@newsobserver.com

A former Wake County school board member has filed to run for the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

Susan Evans, who served on the school board from 2011 to 2016, filed for the Wake commissioners District 4 seat Thursday. The district, which includes parts of Cary, Apex and Raleigh in the south central areas of Wake County, is currently held by Erv Portman, who filed for re-election Tuesday.

“I am just passionate about serving at this new level, but think my background makes it a natural progression for me,” Evans said.

The 60-year-old Democrat decided against running for another term on the school board in 2016 to pursue an unsuccessful bid for the state Senate. Through her experience with the Wake school system, including serving on the school board’s finance and facilities committee, Evans said she thinks she’ll be able to bridge the gap between the school and county boards.

“There still exists some misunderstandings on behalf of the county side on how the school system’s finances actually work,” she said.

The relationship between the two boards has improved in recent years, and Evans said she’d like to see recent funding increases to the school district continue. While the school system hasn’t made its budget request yet, school leaders are already saying they may need up to $47 million in additional money. Portman and some other commissioners are pushing toward a multiyear funding formula that would take some of the guesswork out of the process.

“I am certainly in favor of improving the process between the school district and the county commissioners,” Evans said. “So any progress we can make in that regard, I am certainly on board with and (Portman) has some ideas that I support. We just have to see. But long-range planning becomes a little bit challenging for the school system finances because there are so many pieces that the school system can’t control. The least of which is decisions made by the General Assembly.”

School funding is an obvious first priority for Evans, but she said she’s interested in continuing other initiatives such as expanding opportunities for more affordable housing, increasing options for mass transit and providing quality health and social services for Wake County residents.

“I came to realize during my time on the school board that a child who is hungry and not healthy is not able to learn very well, so we have to be addressing all of those needs,” she said. “I am concerned about food insecurity that exists in Wake County.”

As for the county’s property tax rate of 61.5 cents per $100 valuation, Evans said she doesn’t intend to “dwell” on changing the rate but it “needs to be what it needs to be” to meet the service and infrastructure needs of the county.

Wake County commissioner candidates must live within the districts they run in but are voted on by everyone in the county. The primary is May 8.

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