Conservative pastor wins school board seat
It was a hard-fought race down to the wire Tuesday in Roanoke County’s Catawba District, as Glenvar High School teacher Martha Hooker defeated long-time Supervisor Butch Church.
Voting totals reported on the Virginia Department of Elections website showed Hooker gathered 71 percent of votes cast, or 3,777 votes. Church took 28 percent, with 1,527 votes. Election results are not official until certified to the circuit court clerk the day after the election, which was after press time.
In the same district which runs from Glenvar to Masons Cove and Northside, conservative Christian pastor Tom McCracken won by a smaller margin over another first-time candidate, Donald Butzer, for the school board seat vacated by David Wymer. McCracken won by 422 votes out of the more than 4,884 total cast in the school board race.
In a telephone interview Tuesday night immediately after celebrating her win with fellow Republicans at the Holiday Inn Tanglewood, Hooker, who is marketing coordinator and teaches business at Glenvar, admitted she was surprised by the percentage of her win, 2-1, over Church, who was first elected in 1999 and each four years since.
“I am humbled by the win. I anticipated it would be a close race. Mr. Church campaigned hard,” she said. She credited her win to the citizens in her district being ready for a change.
“The citizens of the Catawba District are ready for a change, for some fresh ideas,” she said. She heard their ideas when she canvassed most neighborhoods in the district on Saturdays. “They are ready for a different demeanor on the board of supervisors, and for the county to being open for business, making it easier for businesses to come to Roanoke County,” Hooker said.
She added, “I think people were ready for a change and for better dialog with the board of supervisors.”
“I am humbled by the win. I look forward to working with the citizens of Roanoke County,” said Hooker, who with family and supporters had already been out picking up her campaign signs.
As far as how she would juggle her teaching duties at Glenvar with attending Roanoke County Board of Supervisors meetings, Hooker said she does not foresee any problems. “There may be occasional times I need to take off but I don’t see it as a conflict with my teaching schedule,” said Hooker, who teaches six classes. One of her blocks is coordinating her marketing students.
Hooker ran as a Republican. Church, a former Republican, has run as an independent for the last few years. She has served on the county’s planning commission since 1992, and was nominated to that position by Church.
Hooker and her husband of 32 years, Brian who teaches at Andrew Lewis Middle School in Salem, live in a wooded area near Glenvar High School. Three years ago they led a group of citizens to put pressure on the Roanoke County School Board not to disrupt their neighborhood by cutting a new entrance for busses and emergency access to Glenvar High School, particularly during construction.
The couple have two grown children: Lindsay and husband John Clark who live in Pennsylvania with their two children, and son Jake and wife Lauren who live in North Carolina where Jake is completing seminary, according to Hooker’s campaign website.
McCracken credits win to people who believe in him
McCracken gave credit for his win to people who believed in him. “I surrounded myself with a lot of hardworking people who believed in me. This was their vote of confidence for me. I really am encouraged this is one community that faith is still important to,” the founder and senior pastor of Community Church said. “In this valley, I have seen that faith is still resonating.”
Although he emphasized that his faith guides him, McCracken said he had been incorrectly quoted as saying he wants to get prayer back in schools. He added, “You don’t have to check your faith when you walk into a building.”
In his campaign, McCracken emphasized his educational background, including three master’s degrees from Liberty University where he is working on a doctorate. He is an adjunct professor for Virginia Western Community College where he teaches world religion, Old and New Testament survey and ethics. “I’ve never been anything but supportive of the schools,” he added.
The church located near the Roanoke County School offices, provides office space for the Military Family Support Center which provides food and services to families of Reservists and National Guard while they are deployed.
Both McCracken and Butzer are married to Roanoke County educators. Laurie McCracken is special education coordinator for Northside High School. They have three daughters and a son who all attended Roanoke County schools. They are: Kristy, a junior at Northside High; Kimberly, who is in Montana serving in the U.S. Air Force; Katie, a Liberty student, and Scott and his wife in Tennessee.
Neither Supervisor Butch Church nor Butzer returned phone calls Tuesday night in response to calls from the Salem Times-Register requesting reactions about their respective races.