By MAGGIE KIELY
A Mount Pleasant businessman will challenge a local incumbent for a State Board of Public Education seat in the upcoming state primary election.
Thomas Ratliff said he decided to run for the District 9 post for two reasons: to become more involved in his children's education and because he believes the district's residents need an approachable liaison who is open to their input.
"I'm not running because I have all the answers," he said. "I'm running because the people who do aren't being talked to. I want to be an advocate for those people."
Incumbent Don McLeroy from College Station has served on the board since 1998 and was the chairman from July 2007 until May. McLeroy, a local dentist, served on the Bryan school board in 1997.
Elected officials of the state board are responsible for establishing Texas public school goals, mandating passing test scores, balancing curriculum and overseeing school funds, among other duties.
Ratliff was the director of external affairs for AT&T Wireless for eight states, including Texas, from 1994-1997.
He founded Ratliff Co. in 1998 in Austin, where he works as a governmental relations consultant with three partners, including his father, Bill Ratliff, who served as lieutenant governor from 2000 to 2003. Ratliff also works as a manager and consultant to Greene Title Co.
He has a son in the sixth grade and a daughter in the eighth grade.
Although he doesn't have any previous school board experience, Ratliff said he believes his ability to listen to constituents and relay their concerns will make him an effective elected official.
"I think I will find good mentors on the board and learn the ropes from them," he said. "When you're an advocate for somebody, you're not coming down with an agenda."
McLeroy was unavailable for comment on Thursday.
District 9 stretches from Grimes County to the Oklahoma border and includes Brazos, Leon, Madison and Robertson counties.