Jim Petty—who calls himself “Mr. P” for “Mr. Positive” because “I hate negativism”—told The Mirror last week that “I want people to know me and come talk to me” about the matter.
“I was totally against the bond issues and campaigned against them,” wrote Petty, a 70-year-old 1963 Gilmer High graduate who worked for the school for a time in the 1980s. But “After all three (proposals) were defeated and the dust settled, it was time to start asking lots of questions.
“Much to my amazement, lots of people I talked to gave me bits and pieces of information, most of which was not correct,” Petty added.
Thus, he wrote, he walked one morning into the office of School Supt. Rick Albritton (who he had never met), “asked for a few minutes of his time and walked out 2-plus hours later with lots of information and a refreshed attitude. By the way, Rick Albritton is a good man and very dedicated to our school and our community.”
Petty said he asked the superintendent which of the three rejected proposals was the most important, and that Albritton replied it was a proposed new high school. Petty said he then toured the school while it was in session.
“I learned a lot about the conditions of the building and real need for our most important resource: our kids,” he wrote. “My mission now is to spend lots of time with the people in our community to set in motion a good, solid long-term plan to improve our high school.”
Petty appeared before the Gilmer School Board at its December meeting to offer his assistance. He told The Mirror he has also met with Head Football Coach/Athletic Director Jeff Traylor, and that he will meet with other coaches and teachers.
Besides his written statement, Petty told the newspaper that “I don’t know that we need a new school,” but that he plans to compare “a better cost and proposal” for a new one versus the idea of remodeling instead.
He said he would come up with some dollar figures and perhaps propose giving voters “an option on what” to do.
“I’m going to do a lot of research” and determine what needs repair, Petty said, adding he will take his time.
In addition, he said, “I want to help to bring the community together” as “We’ve got people on both sides (of the rejected bond issue) angry.”