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Bates selects banker as replacement

COVINGTON -- Newton County Board of Education member C.C. Bates hopes a local banker with ties to the Newton County School System will replace her upon her resignation later this month.

Bates announced in January that she would resign from her District 5 seat after the June 15 meeting because she and her family are moving closer to her job at Clemson University, where she is an assistant professor in the reading department at the school's College of Education in South Carolina.

At a special-called meeting of the Newton County Board of Education on May 26, in which Bates wasn't in attendance, NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley announced that Bates had recommended the appointment of Covington resident Greg Proffitt as an interim District 5 representative to serve until January, when her elected replacement will come on board.

"She being the District 5 representative, we respect that recommendation," said school board Chair Cathy Dobbs during the meeting.

Whatley said the board decided to not choose someone running in this year's election in order to avoid showing favoritism to any person or party.

"(Proffitt) not only has school-age children, but his wife Betsy teaches at (Indian Creek Middle School)," Bates said in an e-mail. "Greg has shown his support of the NCSS by helping with SPLOST and the Newton County Foundation for Educational Excellence. Greg's financial background will be a great asset to the school system as we continue to negotiate our way during these financially difficult times."

Proffitt, 42, a Newton County resident of about 18 years, has worked in the financial field since 1992. He currently works as vice president of Newton Federal Bank in Covington, a position he has held for five years. Prior to working at Newton Federal Bank, he worked in finance at the Federal Reserve, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Georgia and in transportation, said Proffitt, who holds a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Georgia and a master's of business administration degree from Georgia State University.

"The board needs the community to step up, rather than sit back and complain," said Proffitt, adding that he had previously expressed interest in helping Bates in her absence. "I'm excited about the opportunity to help out in any way I can."

Originally, he had thought about seeking election to the school board seat, but decided the timing wasn't right this year, after seeing the choice of candidates and deciding that any of them would do a nice job. Republicans Abigail Coggin, James Travis Price and J. Timothy Walden and Democrat Sharon Sawyer all qualified to run for the District 5 seat in the November election.

In the future, though, he said he might seek election to the school board.

"This will allow me to get a taste of it," he said. "With working and kids, it can be time consuming."

For now, he wants to focus on the task at hand.

"I hope to do good service," he said, adding that he will focus on finances and minimizing the financial effects for teachers and students. "I've got some big shoes to fill with C.C. leaving, as she has a strong career background in education."

He said he feels confident he can help out with finances, although most of the budget decisions already will have been made when he begins in June, and also make good decisions for the employees and students of NCSS.

"I hope a fresh perspective might be able to help," said Proffitt, adding that he has been gathering research by talking with his wife and co-worker Johnny Smith, who represents District 1 on the school board. "It's a crisis at the state level and it's impacting us. ... The people who are suffering most (from budget cuts) are the kids."

His wife Betsy has been a teacher in Newton County for about 18 years, and they have two children in NCSS -- their son Brantley is a rising seventh-grader at ICMS, and their daughter Ellie is a rising fourth-grader at Ficquett Elementary School.

But Proffitt also realizes he won't be able to save the world.

"Local school boards only have so much power," he said. "The state controls the funds, and without funds, what can you do?"

Proffitt also is a member of the executive board of the Newton County Chamber of Commerce, where he volunteers as the financial officer of the board; he also was a treasurer at First Baptist Church of Covington for more than 10 years and coaches sports for the Newton County Recreation Department.

The school board members plan to appoint Proffitt at their next meeting, which is scheduled as a work session to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the board room at the Newton County BOE building at 2109 Newton Drive N.E. in Covington. The board refrained from approving the appointment during its special called meeting in May, as school board member Eddie Johnson had yet to meet Proffitt.