Between now and the Williamson County election Thursday, Aug. 4, the Williamson Home Page is profiling candidates in the Williamson County Board of Education race.
As soon as her daughter entered kindergarten, Kristi Bidinger sprang into action.
That is, even though she had returned to the workforce after staying home to raise Rachel, her and her husband Mark’s only child, Bidinger made time to stay involved in the school where Rachel attended, Edmonson Elementary in the Williamson County Schools district.
“I have been a room mom every year, I’ve volunteered with PTO,” she said recently. “I’ve always been engaged with our school.”
And now, as Rachel moves on to her first year at Brentwood Middle School, Bidinger has become an advocate not only for a local school but for all those within the WCS system. She’s running as an independent for the Board of Education seat in District 6, taking on incumbent Jay Galbreath, a Republican, and independent candidate Deborah Pace. The election is Thursday, Aug. 4.
“At first I was like, yeah, I want to run for office, this sounds fun,” Bidinger said with a note of sarcasm. “I kept hoping somebody else would do it.
“And then I prayed about it and got the thumbs up from my husband and daughter. You have to have family on board.”
Bidinger grew up in Minnesota, and came to the Greater Nashville area in 1996 with hopes to work in the music industry in public relations. She graduated from Middle Tennessee State University, and after working as an unpaid intern during college, she landed a promotions job with 96.3 Jack FM radio.
In the meantime, she and Mark had married and eventually moved to Brentwood, where years later they became parents. Bidinger is now an executive assistant with HCA.
As their daughter progresses through school, Bidinger said she and Mark have had good rapport with each of Rachel’s teachers, from kindergarten through fifth grade. They never worried that a teacher or administrator had a hidden agenda or were anything less than above board.
“From my experience, every teacher Rachel has ever had has communicated ahead of time what she’s going to be learning,” Bidinger said. “My husband and I have had the opportunity to say, ‘OK, next week or two weeks from now, she’s going to be reading this book,’ and we’ve never had an issue with it. We trust her teachers to use their professionalism and training to teach our kids.”
Bidinger has kept up with the county’s school board and the district at large during Rachel’s school years, occasionally watching meetings through livestream. She particularly started paying attention to the goings-on about two years ago.
“COVID really woke me up, just realizing the amount of pressures and challenges that our teachers had to deal with,” she said. “They had to go from a regular classroom to learning how to teach online.
“I was very proud of the way [WCS Superintendent] Jason Golden and the administration handled it. I mean, there are 40,000 students they had to keep safe and in school.”
In time, Bidinger watched as school board meetings became heated about a year ago when parental rights groups and others became quite vocal over matters such as mask requirements, curriculum and a concern over critical race theory, among other issues.
Bidinger saw these eruptions as attacks on schools, administrators and teachers, and those feelings were at least a part of why she chose to run in District 6.
“It’s been a very positive, fun experience actually,” she said of her campaign. “I’ve met so many amazing public school advocates that are fighting back against the stuff coming out about our teachers.
“I want to be a really transparent person as a candidate. I want to be very accessible to everybody, whether you vote for me or not.”
Visit Kristi Bidinger's website for more information.