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Controversial Durham School Board Member To Run For Mayor

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jackie wagstaff
DURHAM, N.C. — One of Durham's most vocal and often controversial school board members wants to play a bigger role in Bull City politics, but her announcement has sparked both concern and congratulations.

Jackie Wagstaff announced Thursday that she is running for mayor. Wagstaff, a former city councilwoman who has often sat in the middle of some stormy school board meetings, said she now wants a chance to lead the city of Durham and to focus her energy on reducing youth violence and cleaning up the inner city.

"The time is for us to clean up Durham -- clean up youth problems," Wagstaff said. "We've got a lot of problems in Durham."

Some voters, however, thing Wagstaff is part of the problem.

"I really think it's a joke," said Deborah Lilliston, a Durham resident. "The way she represents herself on the school board, I wouldn't want her to be my leader or represent Durham, North Carolina."

Three years ago, Wagstaff was convicted of falsifying city documents when she was the director of a non-profit group. Two years ago, she was evicted from her home twice for not paying rent. This year, she was banned from Shepard Middle School.

In recent months, Wagstaff has been at the center of the debate over the school board's public comment policy. She has also become known for her vocal outbursts at meetings.

"It's just that when I came in and I wouldn't go along with the program, I got bad press. I didn't start nothing," Wagstaff said when asked about some people's criticism that she has divided people and crippled the school board.

Some supporters say Wagstaff brings a different point of view. Others say it is her frankness that makes her popular.

"She's committed," said Phyllis Thornton. "You might not like how she handles things, but she'll handle it."

As for her part, Wagstaff hopes the election hinges on the issues, not her personality or her past personal problems.

Wagstaff is one of four people in the race for Durham mayor. Incumbent Bill Bell will run for re-election. Besides Wagstaf, Jonathon Alston and Steven Williams will each try to unseat him.


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