CoastLine: New Hanover County Board of Education Candidate Forum

Oct 28, 2014

On October 27, 2014, WHQR and WWAY Newschannel 3 partnered to produce a Candidate Forum featuring the race for the four open seats on the New Hanover County Board of Education.  

Six of seven candidates participated.  Janice Cavenaugh had agreed to the event but was too ill to attend and sent regrets just hours before. 

WWAY Newschannel 3 Anchor Makenzi Henderson and WHQR's Rachel Lewis Hilburn asked questions of the candidates in the first segment.

During the second segment, we invited members of the audience to ask questions. 

New Hanover County School Board Members serve staggered four-year terms.   Three of four incumbents whose terms expire this year are seeking reelection.  One Board member is instead seeking a seat on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners.    

The candidates in alphabetical order:

Janice Cavenaugh, a Republican Incumbent, works as a real estate appraiser. She has served on the school board for 23 years – including two terms as Chair and one as Vice Chair.  She is married and has two children and five grandchildren.   

Tom Gale, a Democrat, is a local REALTOR.  His wife is an educator in Brunswick County, he has a first-grader in New Hanover County schools, and a two year old that will be going to school in a few years.

Don Hayes, a Republican Incumbent and current Board Chair, is a Viet Nam veteran, former New Hanover County teacher, and assistant principal.  He works as a self-employed sales representative.  A member of the School Board since 1994, Don Hayes has served as Chair four times and Vice Chair once.  He is married and has one child. 

Ed Higgins, a Republican Incumbent, retired from Cape Fear Community College after more than 30 years as a law instructor, business instructor and department chair of the Public Service Department.   He has served on the School Board since 1994 – twice as Chairman.  He is married and has three children. 

Chris Meek, a Democratic Challenger, is a teacher of 18 years, owns Wilmington Officials Association, and is a current PhD candidate for Leadership in School Administration. He is married with five children that are all either current or former New Hanover County Public School students. 

Emma Saunders, a Democratic Challenger, is a retired teacher and administrator in New Hanover County schools and a recipient of the Smart Start Children’s Champion Award.  She’s also a two-time recipient of the Senior Resource Center’s Senior Leadership Award. And she’s a Blue Star Mother.    

Bruce Shell, a Republican Challenger, served as the Manager of New Hanover County for 6 and a half years.  He was County Finance Director for 11 years and interim Town Manager for Carolina Beach.  He is married and has two children. 


Candidates have 90 seconds to answer each question.  We rotate the order in which candidates answer.  There are no Opening Statements in order to allow more time for questions.

In the final segment, each candidate has 90 seconds to deliver a Closing Statement.    

Early voting is underway and runs through November 1st.  October 28th is the last day to request an absentee ballot. 

And Election Day is November 4th!