Larkins won't seek third term on Hawkins BOE, offers advice to his successor

Jeff Bobo • Mar 3, 2020 at 3:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Of the four Hawkins County Board of Education seats up for re-election in 2020, Bob Larkins, who represents District 1 (Mount Carmel and Allandale), is the only incumbent not running again.

The other seats up for re-election in the Aug. 6 county general election are District 2 (Church Hill area) held by Chris Christian, District 5 (Rogersville) held by Jackie Charles, and District 7 (Bulls Gap, St. Clair, Persia) held by Judy Woods-Trent.

As of Monday, Christian, Charles and Trent were the only candidates for their respective seats who had picked up candidacy petitions from the Election Commission.

Larkins told the Times News on Monday he has decided not to seek a third term on the board. He is completing his second term and served as board chairman 2016-19.

“Hopefully this announcement will inform those that might be interested in serving on the BOE, and they will have ample opportunity to pick up a petition for the next election,” Larkins said. “Serving as a board member for the past 7.5 years has truly been an honor and privilege, and I want to thank the citizens of Hawkins County for their support and trust in me. I’m hoping that the very best candidates who are most interested in public education come forward and take the plunge into public service.”

The deadline to qualify for the Aug. 6 Hawkins County BOE election is April 2 at noon. On Monday, Larkins answered a few questions for the Times News about his time on the BOE, as well as offering advice to his successor.

What accomplishments over the past 7.5 years are you especially proud of?

“There are a couple of things. Our graduation rate has increased, and our ACT scores have increased, and that was an ultimate goal for us. Also trying to get our attendance back in line — it's above the state average now — those are some good things that we're proud of. Obviously there's many things that need to be done. We're not where we need to be by any means.”

What skills or qualities would be most useful to your successor on the school board?

“One of the things I found myself trying to do the first year I was on there was trying to listen and observe and get to know the individuals that I'd be working with — the central office folks, the director of schools and then obviously those schools that I represented. ...I think that's really important that first year, is just trying to learn all the ropes of a school board member. There's so many laws, so many rules and regulations that one has to be aware of. I tried to really be a good listener that first year and tried to learn what I was talking about. I wasn't afraid to ask questions that might appear dumb.”

That sounds like good advice for any newly elected official in any office.

“You and I know a lot of people who have run on one agenda item, and once they get in there they find out that it's a much bigger matter than one agenda item. Trying to change one agenda item is the wrong motive to get into a public office like that. I was a bit naive when I came in. I thought decisions would be made for whatever is in the best interest, and they are, but at the same time there's a lot of dialogue that goes on and opinions. As you know, there are personalities, and you have to learn how to adjust and work with people. I would recommend that whoever gives (running for school board) some thought that they be a person who is willing to listen, that they educate themselves and be dedicated to public education.”

What is the most rewarding and most challenging side of being a school board member?

“Meeting and working with the fine people that are teaching and supporting our children is the greatest reward. I’m thoroughly impressed with our staff from top to bottom of their commitment to our students and their families. I have forged relationships with teachers, principals and administrators that are especially meaningful that will last for a lifetime. The most challenging job for a school board member is to operate a district on limited resources.”

Is there one thing you'd like to accomplish with your remaining time on the board more than any other?

“I’ve said from the beginning of my tenure that we must recruit and retain the very best employees, and the only way I know to do that is to pay a competitive wage and offer reasonable benefits. I plan to push for this concept until my final day as a board member.  One of the things that I had tried to accomplish over my tenure was to try and get (public utility) drinking water over to Clinch School. It looks like as things are developing that's probably not going to happen. But that was one of my major goals.”

Larkins said he considered it a privilege to work with with four directors of Hawkins County Schools: Charlotte Britton, Steve Starnes, Reba Bailey (interim) and Matt Hixson.

“These four are true educational professionals, and I have learned much from their vast experience and knowledge,” Larkins said. “Our current director, Matt Hixson, is a superb leader, and he has a great vision for our district, and I’m going to miss working with him and his staff of supervisors.”