4 p.m. — Mary Barber
Kirkland, whose father and grandfather were both school principals and
has spent 39 years in public education herself, is challenging Rep. Joe
Neal. Originally from Hopkins, she has been involved in a lot of
community efforts in lower Richland. She says she’s running because she
"wanted a leader who is visible and focused." She declined to criticize
the incumbent, although those points are common to candidates who have
opposed Mr. Neal (unsuccessfully) in the past — assertions that he is
not engaged enough locally between elections.
But Mrs. Kirkland
preferred to talk about what she would do, and she would concentrate on
education and economic development, the latter being particularly
sorely needed in her district.
She believes that parental and community
involvement are the main elements needed for children to succeed in
school, and she has seen her share of children struggling — and says
she has seen gang involvement as young as the second grade — "I can
see the little ones joining now… seeking that family that they don’t
have at home."
She also favors programs that enable senior
citizens to share their wisdom with younger generations.