Who's who in DeKalb, Cobb school board runoffs

Nearly a quarter of the DeKalb board seats are contested in nonpartisan races, and Cobb Republicans must pick their challenger of a Democratic incumbent.

Retired DeKalb schools Deputy Superintendent Melvin Johnson is running against consultant Denise Etienne McGill in the 6th District in southeast DeKalb, where the incumbent opted out.

McGill, who has worked in telecommunications project management, has a child in DeKalb schools. The former PTSA president and Girl Scout troop leader says she's the grass-roots candidate, and claims endorsements from the state association of black women attorneys and from a group linked to the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce.

Johnson, whose children are grown, served on the boards of the Leadership Preparatory Academy charter school and the YMCA Academies. He's endorsed by the county sheriff, several local elected officials and the Georgia Federation of Teachers. He said experience is his best asset and that he'll hit the ground running.

In District 4, incumbent H. Paul Womack Jr. is fending off a challenge from James L. McMahan, a residential loan originator.

McMahan claims support from the third- and fourth-place candidates in last month's election. McMahan serves on councils for the schools his children attend and on the DeKalb County Council of PTAs. He wants the school board to be more open with the public.

Womack, a retiree, says that with school system finances in disarray, it's the wrong time to bring in someone new.

In Cobb County, Larry Darnell will face Brad Wheeler in a runoff to be the Republican nominee for the 7th District's school board seat.

The winner will face Alison Bartlett, the Democratic nominee and an incumbent, in November.

Darnell, 60, said he is a native of Cobb County and knows the district well.

"I hope to get in and understand the budget to the point that we can analyze it and get rid of wasteful spending so we can take care of teachers," said Darnell, who works as a project manager for a local contractor.

Wheeler, 57 and a retired school administrator, said he wants to help the board spend only on things that are essential to the district's mission and work to improve the board's public image.

"I want to work to bring everybody together so that we're all working toward the same goal," he said last month.