published Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Signal Mountain man, Mike Harvey, plans write-in campaign

Who do you support for the District 2 seat on the Hamilton County Board of Education?

Mike Harvey, a lifelong Signal Mountain resident, will launch a write-in campaign to challenge Signal Mountain dentist Jonathan Welch for the District 2 seat on the Hamilton County Board of Education.

Harvey has considered running for the board for some time, but said recent incidents at Signal Mountain Middle/High and the encouragement of voters prompted him to start a write-in campaign.

Welch is the only candidate on the ballot after board member Chip Baker decided not to run for re-election.

Welch's wife was one of two school counselors suspended for the rest of the school year after being caught with alcohol at school. Five other staff members received two-week suspensions for drinking while on a senior trip cruise to the Bahamas. Though officials said teachers never drank with the students, 16 seniors on the trip were suspended for consuming alcohol, a violation of the rules of the trip.

Harvey missed the April 5 deadline to qualify for a spot on the ballot for the Aug. 2 election.

"These incidences have happened since that cut-off date, so I really don't have any other choice but to run as a write-in candidate," he said. "And I feel that strongly about it."

Harvey, a nurse anesthetist at Erlanger Health System, is a graduate of Red Bank High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The challenger said the recent episode on Signal will make Welch's campaign tough.

"I think it's going to be difficult for him to be the leader he needs to be," he said.

That's a claim that Welch rejects.

"The recent events are wrapping up behind us," he said. "I don't see any reason that it would affect my ability to work on the board."

Welch said he's been busy talking to District 2 voters and is largely running a word-of-mouth campaign.

"There's been nobody to debate since I was running unopposed. I welcome that with Mike," Welch said.

Harvey said he hopes to bring strong leadership to the board and help the community recover from some of Signal Mountain's recent embarrassments.

"It just seems like our leadership needs some help," he said. "I think the school is drifting from its purpose. The staff and students need support."

Doug Laman, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Erlanger, said Signal Mountain Middle/High is becoming the "laughingstock of the county." But he said Harvey's leadership can help change that.

"I just think he's a trustworthy, honest person who will do the best for whatever schools he's representing," Laman said.

Harvey said he has a better chance of winning than most write-in candidates do.

"It will be difficult, simply because I'm just not on the ballot," he said. "But in this case, everybody I talk to says I've got a chance."

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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