Surry County Board of Commissioners – Karen Osburn-Chandler

Osburn-Chandler -

Name: Karen Osburn-Chandler

Age: 59

Hometown: Thurmond

Party: Democratic

Family: I am the daughter of Bernard and Ruth Osburn. I have one sister, Tammy Osburn. I am married to Robin Chandler, retired First Sergeant of the North Carolina Highway Patrol. We have two daughters and four fabulous grandchildren.

Education: I have a Masters of Science degree in Technology Education with a concentration in Workforce Development and hold six North Carolina teacher licenses. My undergraduate degree work is in Business Education.

Work activity: I am retired from Surry County Schools after 29 years of service. I taught Cooperative Industrial Training, Business Education and Career Development Education at East Surry and Surry Central High Schools and the four middle schools in Surry County.

Civic/church activity: I am an elder in my church, Elkin Presbyterian, where I have been a member for 20 years. I am a Sunday School teacher as well as holding numerous leadership roles of service.

1. What are some of the key funding needs in Surry County, in your opinion, and how would you address those?

Adequate funding for the 23 Surry County Government Departments and the three school systems are two key funding needs in Surry County. The needs of Surry County Government Department directors and their staff members should be a high funding priority of the commissioners. Surry County citizens are the direct benefactors of the services of these departments. The need for adequate work space and tools, 21st Century technology and resources, necessary staff training as well as additional department funding results in a return on our funding investment.

The second key funding need for the county is three school systems. Per pupil spending and facility maintenance are necessary for school systems to meet the needs of our students. As a life-long educator, I cannot think of a better return on an investment. Educating students to become productive, successful citizens and wage earners is the basis for a strong, competitive local economy and produces a quality of life where residents are excited and proud to call home.

Addressing these needs should be done through the development of a collaborative strategic plan. The strategic plan would start with data analysis of demographics (employment, population, county assets, etc.) and the creation of a strategic process where county partners and stakeholders would identify a proactive way to meet the needs of our county government departments and school systems. Through the development of this strategic planning process, key growth areas can be identified and targeted for goal setting and necessary funding.

2. Funding for education continues to be hit at the state and federal level. How should the county make up for those losses to ensure quality teachers are retained and recruited and facility needs are met?

Even though education funding has taken a hit from state and federal levels, there are numerous ways to retain and recruit quality teachers to Surry County. Through collaborative partnerships and other community initiatives between our county government departments, our municipalities and the private business sector, Surry County Government could create a marketing program that would link educators to the quality of life in Surry County. Creating this personalized marketing tool highlighting the opportunities that can be experienced by living in Surry County, our county government could showcase the treasures that exist within our county. Sharing with educators the value of our parks and recreations, our local municipalities, our cultural arts, our business climate and a variety of other quality of life enhancements in Surry County, the increased likelihood that educators would chose Surry County and remain here is possible.

Another means for attracting and keeping quality educators is to fund local teacher supplements at a comparable level to other affinity groups in our state. A competitive local teacher supplement could be a major deciding factor in recruiting and retaining quality teachers for our students.

Local government can use the data obtained from annual school systems report cards to highlight the positive achievements of our schools to recruit teachers. This data gives insight into the expectations and accountability of our school systems, thus ensuring that a quality education is achieved for all students.

In addition to leveraging our tax dollars, exploring grant opportunities and inviting private sector investments, Surry County could enhance its ability to equip our schools with the tools for industry specific training, technology expansion and work-based learning opportunities for students. Collaborative partnerships and strategic planning could result in the use of affordable resources for facilities improvements thus producing skilled workers to meet the demands of Surry County employers.

3. How will you address continued needs for higher paying jobs in Surry and ensuring qualified candidates who can pass background and drug tests are available for employers?

My work experience as a business educator and workforce development coordinator has taught me that high pay is connected to high productivity and high skill development and all of these are connected to economic growth. I see the role of a county commissioner as one who leads in coordinating plans for economic growth. I would demonstrate this leadership by engaging workers and business and economic partners in conversations and programs which are relative to earning and giving the highest wages possible in return for meeting the highest level of productivity. Implementing a collaborative strategic plan that supports and encourages economic growth and catalyzes a strong local economy gives county government a positive return on the county’s investment.

Ensuring qualified candidates who can pass background and drug tests as a county commissioner would start with k-14 education connections. As part of my collaborative strategic plan, I think giving students career exploration opportunities in the classroom, taking them on field trips to local business and industry, promoting character development programs in

schools as early in a child’s school career as possible and supporting work-based learning opportunities increases a student’s ability to understand the requirements of becoming a successful employee. Providing mentoring experiences from business and industry representatives for high school students helps students learn and grow into the role of a competent worker. Included in the collaborative strategic plan would be partnerships with private, public, faith-based and nonprofit agencies to give post-secondary job candidates access to the resources that they are in need of to become competent workers.

Final statement:

As your candidate for Surry County Commissioner, I believe that we are better together. I believe in partnerships. I believe in developing collaborative strategic plans for addressing the county’s needs. I believe in fairness and consistency in conducting the county’s business. I believe that entrepreneurship and small business ownership is the backbone of a strong economy. I believe that education can provide every student a pathway of success for their future. I believe in being proactive when responding to our county’s needs based on data analysis and expert advice.

I would honored to be your county commissioner.