Board of Education sign

In what was generally a no-frills opportunity for Williamson County Board of Education candidates to respond to a set of questions via Zoom, the League of Women Voters of Williamson County held the area’s first forum since before the May primaries Tuesday evening.

Eight of the 15 candidates in the race for the even-numbered districts in the upcoming Aug. 4 election participated in the virtual event, which was formatted to give each candidate the chance to answer six questions and to present opening and closing statement. Those questions covered a range of topics, from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to charter schools to textbooks, to name a few.

While most of the participants chose not to attack their opponents or to do so in a subtle, matter-of-fact way, there was a flare coming out of District 10. That’s where Eric Welch, a Republican, is seeking to keep his seat from challenger William “Doc” Holladay, an independent, and Democrat Jennifer Haile (who was not at the forum).

Holladay and Welch took jabs at each other through some of the questions, and especially in their closing statements.

“I’m the only conservative candidate in District 10,” Holladay said. “You have a Democrat who’s running and another Democrat that’s claiming to be a Republican. … Every vote Mr. Welch has made has been a left agenda-supported vote. I will vote the opposite and vote for parental rights, medical freedom. …. I’d like to be remembered as someone who did what I said I would do, which is to protect our kids from harmful devices, anti-American racist ideology, inappropriate sexualization grooming and indoctrination. … I’d like to say I had a hand in getting our public school system back on track and back to what made it one of the greatest school systems in the nation.”

Welch countered with a few darts as well, pointing out the differences between the two candidates.

“In terms of the differentiator between Mr. Holladay and myself, I want to serve the system, [and he] wants to be in charge of the system,” Welch said. “That’s a big difference. … If Mr. Holladay wants to serve, why hasn’t he? [Regarding] his statement that ‘my biggest volunteer effort is running for office,’ frankly, that’s something I would be embarrassed to say in front of one of our PTO parents that did so much. 

"Another differentiator is that I want to elevate our system and bring it up. I want to highlight the good and fix the bad. Mr Holladay wants to elevate the rumors. … I want to lift up the schools and Mr. Holladay wants to beat them and pound them down for his own political gain.”

Others participating in the forum were Republican Dan Cash and independent Tiffany Eccles from District 2; Democrat Bob Britton and independent Del Wright from District 4; and Republican Jay Galbreath and independent Kristi Bidinger from District 6;

In addition to Haile, those not participating were Republican Josh Brown from District 4; Republican Donna Clements and independent Ken Chilton from District 8; and Republican Drason Beasley and independent Nancy Garrett from District 12.

Chilton and Garrett had both indicated they would have liked to participate, but they had to sit out by default since they had no opponent from their district. The League’s policy states there has to be at least two candidates from each district.

The forum was moderated by Lynn Webb, assistant dean at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and on the faculty of The Center for Patient and Professional Advocacy. He will be assisted by Marilyn Webb, a retired school administrator for Williamson County Schools. She continues to serve the school district in interim administrative positions. 

The forum can be viewed through the Facebook page of the League of Women Voters of Williamson County.

Though Garrett wasn’t able to join the forum, she made a YouTube video in which she responds to the questions that were presented.