Gwinnett County school board Chairman Everton Blair shook up next year’s election cycle on Tuesday by announcing he will not seek a second term in office.

Blair, who is the first Black person ever elected to the county’s school board, is nearing the end of what will now be his only term in office and had been due to be up for re-relection next year. Now the race for his seat, whose district lines for the next decade have not yet been set, becomes wide open.

“After careful consideration and deep reflection, I will not be seeking re-election to the Gwinnett County Board of Education,” Blair said in a statement. “It has been the honor and accomplishment of my career thus far to serve as chairman and as a board representative of our school board.

“As a product of this school system and Gwinnett’s first Black, youngest-ever and first openly gay board representative and board chairman, the weight I felt in this role compelled me to stay focused on the leadership levers that would have the greatest positive impact on our community. That focus helped to sift through the noise and instead just work hard to deliver results for our students, staff and community.”

Blair’s announcement comes a week after the brakes were pulled on a surprise legislative effort to make the school board’s election nonpartisan and redraw school board district lines without any input from the board or Gwinnett County Public Schools. Had that effort made its way through the legislative process — and that still could happen during the 2022 legislative session — it appeared that Blair and fellow board member Tarece Johnson might be drawn into the same board district.

The chairman’s announcement does not focus on that possibility, at least not directly, however.

“I wanted to make this decision clear now so that we can be proactive in supporting a member of our community to represent us well on the school board,” Blair said. “I intend, of course, to remain an active board member and finish this term to completion through Dec. 31, 2022. In doing so, I look forward to continued opportunities to bring our board together on important issue and to support our superintendent and staff in carrying out their duties.”

During his time on the school board, Blair has worked with his colleagues on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit GCPS a little over a year into his term, and was one of three board members — along with Johnson and board Vice-Chairwoman Karen Watkins — who voted to terminate former Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks’ employment contract 11 months early.

“Amid a global pandemic, historic elections, leadership transitions, racial reckonings and orchestrated attempts to disrupt our progress, our board has been successful,” he said. “We will continue to be. The courageous actions that have transpired in just the last three years are a testament to what committed leadership can yield: bridging the gap between the old and the new, working together across lines of difference to find common ground, creating shared experiences for our diversity to be our strength and stepped out to lead with conviction even if you are alone. We certainly have more work to do, but we are in an outstanding position, with the right leadership in place, to move forward.”

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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