GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Tuesday night's turnout at a forum for the Harrison County schools Superintendent's race is proof that this is one of the more interesting races in this year's election.
It's been more than 30 years since someone other than Henry Arledge was in charge of Harrison County schools. He announced his retirement earlier this year.
The Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce, along with Coast Young Professionals, hosted the forum. The candidates had a chance to tell the public why they deserve to hold the position.
It was standing room only at the Orange Grove Community Center, as hundreds of citizens gathered to hear from those vying for the spot of Harrison County School Superintendent.
Republican candidate Heather Blenden told citizens she believes Arledge's retirement means change.
"I have worked at all four corners of our district, and I have the experience from preschool all the way through high school administrative positions in all those areas. So, I think that my diversity and unique experience makes me the best candidate for this job," said Blenden.
Independent candidate Averie Bush says he wants to improve student retention.
"One of my primary focuses is closing the achievement gap for our underperforming students. So, the qualifications are I can deal with not only the high performing students, but those who are at the other end of the spectrum. So, you have to have the focus that does not leave any particular group left behind," said Bush.
Republican Candidate Roy Gill says student achievement will always be his number one priority.
"Somebody has to carry the torch, and I do not want to leave our district in the wings and not be successful. I'm ready to step up, take the district to the top district in the state which I know it can be," said Gill.
Democratic candidate Dr. Stephanie Newell says she is not a politician, but an educator.
"My hope is to bring back unification, bring back communication, and really hands on dedication, courage, decency, and a commitment to a positive district that could be the best ever," said Newell.
Blenden and Gill, who are both Republican candidates, will face off in the August primary election. The winner of that election will go on to the November General election against Newell and Bush.