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Challenger wants to be a 'new voice' for her district

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Downs wants to put her experience, education to work

By Stephen Lega

Peggy Downs was employed by the Marion County Board of Education for 22 years working as a bus driver, coach, secretary and substitute teacher.

Now, she'd like to become the school board's newest member.

Downs, 47, is one of two people challenging incumbent Joe Mattingly to represent District 4 in the Nov. 4 election.

"As a parent, a volunteer, a community member, and a past employee of the school board, coupled with my desire and ability to serve a school district, I feel that District 4 needs a new voice as a member of the school board that will bring the necessary changes needed for our community," she said.

Downs studied early childhood education at St. Catharine College in Springfield before going on to Spalding University and the University of Louisville, where she completed Bachelor's and Master's degrees in social work.

She is a member of St. Francis Xavier Church, where she has served as a religion teacher and a member of the financial committee. She is also a member of the Marion County Cattlemen's Association, the Marion County Stock Club and the Marion County Planning Committee.

"I believe the experience and qualifications I will bring come from working for the board of education, listening to the concerns voiced by employees, students, community members and business people," she said.

Downs was initially opposed to the "recallable nickel" (which will also be on the ballot), but after completing thorough research on the issue, she has a different opinion.

"I have come to believe the recallable nickel will benefit the future of our children within Marion County," she said.

The school district needs to update its buildings, improve its bond rating and purchase needed textbooks, she said. (Under state law, revenue generated by the recallable nickel can only be used for renovation of existing facilities and new construction.)

"Without the funding to back those projects, Marion County can not fully excel in educating our youth," she said.

At the same time, she added that she favored placing the nickel on the ballot so every person can have a voice on the issue.

If elected, Downs would be on the board when it hires a replacement for Superintendent Roger Marcum, who has announced that he will resign at the end of the 2008-09 school year.

Downs said she would look at the candidate's qualifications for running a school district, as well as how the superintendent candidates would care for the district, whether or not the recallable nickel is approved.

She also indicated that her life and work experience would be useful on the school board.

"I have been involved with our church financial committee at finding ways to save, reinvest or place funds with restrictions so the grounds and buildings could be cared for," she said.

And as an employee of the Cabinet For Health and Family Services, she must follow laws pertaining to the safety and well-being of children.

Downs also believes her own education has yielded its own benefits.

"Returning to education after years of being away has provided me with a new endurance," she said, "and the knowledge that you are never too old to learn."