Caleb Long is pretty confident he'll appeal to a wide range of voters.
Which is one reason the electrical apprentice has decided to run for the District 9 seat on the Hamilton County Board of Education.
Now in year three of his five-year apprenticeship, Mr. Long already has a political science degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and is one year away from completing a master's in public administration.
"I have blue collar, white collar and academic experience," he said. "Hopefully, those characteristics will lend themselves to making good decisions (on the school board)."
Mr. Long, 32, said he first became interested in running for the school board when he began discussing public budgets and policies in his master's classes at UTC.
A 1995 graduate of Ooltewah High School, the Apison resident said he understands his district better than anyone. Growth in Hamilton County because of Volkswagen is an especially hot topic in District 9, home of the German automaker's new auto assembly plant.
"District 9 sits on the doorstep of one of the largest economic development projects in the Southeast, and it needs someone to assist," he said.
The District 9 race is wide open since incumbent Chester Bankston announced he is running for a seat on the Hamilton County Commission. Seven candidates have picked up papers to run for the school board seat.
After years as a manufacturing town, Chattanooga shifted to a more service-based environment, but now the city is poised for another change, Mr. Long said.
"Research shows we'll transfer back to a more manufacturing economy," he said. "So are we preparing our students to not only have that knowledge base but also the technical skills?"
Mr. Long said that, as a school board member, he'd like to look into whether federal school programs such as the competitive Race to the Top stimulus funds have an effect locally.
"Do we have teachers who are only teaching to the test in order to be compensated?" he asked.
About the candidate
* Name: Caleb Long, 32
* Family: Son, Wyatt, 5
* Occupation: Electrical apprentice, graduate student
He also has his eye on the national health care debate to see how any changes on the federal level would effect Hamilton County Schools employees, he said.
A.K. Poe, who has known Mr. Long for most of the candidate's life, recalled a recent conversation the two men had about a new method to teach spelling. A current school board member was resisting change, Mr. Poe said, but Mr. Long wondered if the new way might be better.
"If it's new and if it's better ... he's interested in doing the job that gets good results," Mr. Poe said. "That's one of the key things to education."
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