Everton “EJ” Blair, Jr. (left), candidate for Gwinnett County Board of Education District 4, celebrates with his campaign manager, Chelsea Kearns, as they look at voting results in his favor from precincts in the Shiloh district, during an election night watch party at his home in Snellville on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Photo: Casey Sykes
Photo: Casey Sykes

Gwinnett elects first minority school board member; passes bond

Everton Blair discovered before 11 p.m. Tuesday that he had made history as a Gwinnett County Board of Education candidate.

The 26-year-old Shiloh High graduate won the District 4 seat, making him the first black and the youngest board member ever. Voter counts are still being certified, but Blair has done the math.

The unofficial results Wednesday showed Blair with a commanding 57 percent of the 68,119 votes cast. Some provisional and other ballots have yet to be counted.

“The race has not been officially called, but based on the precincts that are still out there and the lead that we have, there is virtually no way that we don’t win this race,” Blair told a crowd of about 50 supporters gathered at his house Tuesday.

“I’m excited people received my candidacy in a positive way,” he said.

Blair said his next steps before the January swearing-in ceremony will be to meet with students and teachers throughout the county.

“I’m ten years removed from high school, five years out of college and a few years from teaching,” he said. “As the most current and contemporary member of the school board, I want to share input from my constituents and basically do a lot of listening.”

In a second school board race, the win for Steven Knudsen was much closer and tenuous. He squeezed past long-time educator Wandy Taylor with 31,420 of the 62,665 votes cast. The margin of victory for the District 2 seat was just 175 votes, with about 2,000 provisional ballots still out.

Knudsen, if he holds onto the seat, said he’s ready for training and meeting with the board.

“The benefit is that E.J. (Blair) and I will get to go through processes and procedures, and they’ll have to validate to us what they do and why they do it.”

Both Blair and Knudsen are newcomers. Board members who hold the seats they will take are stepping down.

Also on the ballot, the referendum for a $350 million general obligation bond sailed through with 78 percent of the 294,107 votes cast. The vote was set up when the Gwinnett Board of Education passed a resolution in August for voters to allow the school district to issue bonds for a new school in the Mill Creek cluster, installation of artificial turf on school football fields and other capital improvements.

Gwinnett Kids Count, a political organization that campaigned for passage of the referendum, thanked the community for showing a commitment to education.

“Gwinnett’s economy and quality of life are directly tied to the success of our schools. The improvements that will be funded by the bond referendum approved in the general election will help ensure that we continue to provide students and teachers with a top notch learning environment and improved facilities,” said Norwood Davis, chief financial officer of 12Stone Church and co-chair of the Gwinnett Kids Count campaign in a statement.

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