Alston wants ‘to help people’Published 8:56pm Saturday, October 20, 2012
Suffolk Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Kevin Alston, who is running for the Sleepy Hole borough seat, says he decided to run for office after watching the past year’s budget process.
“I really got frustrated,” he said. “I told my wife, ‘There needs to be somebody who can be a voice.’ Rather than complain, I said I was going to run for office.”
He says he did not feel that people were heard during the budget process, and the disconnect between the schools and council was obvious.
“Evidently, we’re not doing a good job portraying to council what our needs are,” he said.
Alston has not taken campaign donations, saying he does not want to give the appearance he owes anyone a favor. He has funded his few purchases himself.
“I’m being very outspent, but if I’m not being frugal with my own money, how can I be frugal with the taxpayers’ money?” he said.
Referring to a letter to the editor by Vice Mayor Charles Brown that ran in the Suffolk News-Herald in April, in which Brown asserted “I do not recall seeing anyone but the city manager and her employees” during the responses to the 2008 tornado, Hurricane Irene and other disasters, Alston pointed out that the schools serve as emergency shelters, and school employees served the food for the people who stay there.
Brown also asserted the city employees were the only ones doing the “heavy lifting” during a budget crisis for the city several years ago. But Alston remembers vividly then-Superintendent Milton Liverman calling his top employees together and saying, “We’re going to try and return every dime we can to the city this year.”
School employees scrimped and saved and gave back $3 million, Alston said. The misunderstandings portrayed in the letter were a major part of his decision, he added.
“I don’t want to be a politician,” he said. “I want to represent the people.”
Lest Alston be accused of being completely focused on education, he points out that many areas of the city, including public safety and economic development, hinge on how well public education does.
“Dropout rates are down, and the crime rate is down,” he said, adding that companies often look first at how good the school division is before relocating.
He also has high praise for the city’s emergency services, saying, “We need to do what we need to do to attract and retain the best people that deal with emergency services. We’ve really got a wonderful city as far as that stuff is concerned.”
Alston said he will be a good City Council representative and has stayed in his current job so long, because “I love dealing with people.”
Responding to criticism that he has a conflict of interest because of his job, Alston said, “Who has a bigger conflict of interest? An employee of the school division, a Realtor, a business owner or a lawyer?” He referred to the professions of many current members of City Council. “I truly don’t think there is much, if any, conflict of interest.”
He also pledged that any pay raise he approves for himself would be donated to the school system.
“I want to help Suffolk, and I want to help people,” he said.