Earlier this year, 17 people applied to fill the vacant school board seat created when Jeff Bourne won a seat in the House of Delegates. The board voted to appoint Cindy Menz-Erb until the next election to take place in November. Six candidates made the ballot in November including Dorian Daniels, Lathaniel Kirts, Kevin Starling, Kenya Gibson, Joann Henry, and Cindy Menz-Erb. Last night, Lathaniel Kirts announced he is withdrawing from the school board race. According to his statement:
Dear Fellow Citizens of Northside:
It is with great thought and prayer that I have made the decision to withdraw as a candidate for Richmond School Board 3rd District seat. Although I have an immense passion to fight for our community’s most vulnerable population, I feel that this is not the right time for me to run for public office. However, I will continue my advocacy as a community leader through my role at the Richmond Juvenile Court, my membership on Richmond Alternative for Incarceration Commission, and my ministry at New Generation Church RVA. I would like to thank all my neighbors for their support and I look forward to selecting and endorsing a worthy candidate in the coming months.
Today, we sat down with Kirts at the Battery Park tennis courts to talk more about his decision to drop out. Kirts boiled his decision to withdraw to three reasons: family, faith, and future. Last year, Kirts’s father unexpectedly passed away so his mother plans to move to Virginia from Louisiana with his niece and nephew. Kirts said, “taking care of his mom comes first and right now, she needs support.” Kirts is also the men’s leader and part of the core leadership team at his church, New Generation Church. His church is booming with membership and he plans to continue supporting the Northside community through his work at the church. New Generation Church has an upcoming community day on September 9th to include games, prizes, and food. Kirts’s work at the church includes organizing monthly community gatherings for their men’s ministry. He says the goal with the gatherings is to build men in the community up. Kirts recognizes issues in the community are linked to men in the community failing so it is imperative to help support the men to affect change. Lastly, Kirts has aspirations to go to law school and according to him (and laws of nature), he “isn’t getting any younger.” Kirts said his motives for running were pure, but he “has to give [his] family and [himself] a fair shot.”
With any large election field comes the concern of too many candidates spreading voters thin. While it is a possible inclination for candidates to be pushed out of the field, Kirts said he did not experience this. According to Kirts, since dropping out he has spoken with some of the other candidates who have been supportive of him and his decision.
Had Kirts stayed in the race, his campaign focus would have been ending the school to prison pipeline. Working in the juvenile court, Kirts says he “sees a lot of societal ills that need community involvement to rebuild our community. We have to come together as a community and fix ourselves.” From the seat of school board member, he envisioned leveraging the community center at his church to help link resources from those who have more to those who have less.
Kirts hopes the next 3rd district school board representative has a heart for the poor and will not stay on one side of Chamberlayne. He sees a need on the board for more people well-versed in education policy, who have set foot in Richmond Public Schools outside of their role on the board, and who are not just seeking political advancement. He hopes to find someone with the heart for the position. In the coming months, Kirts will evaluate the other candidates to determine who is best for the position before he makes an endorsement.
While Kirts dropped out of this school board race, we will continue to see him around as he plans to continue his involvement in Northside.