RALEIGH – It was a spark that ignited at an early age, and a teacher's encouragement that launched a life long career.
With education as a platform, Bob Etheridge entered the world of public office as a county commissioner for Harnett County in the early 1970s.
“They pushed me they didn't take any excuse from me, and I think that's what teachers do everyday,” said Etheridge. "I led a fight to build new schools and start a water system and an airport plan."
His dedication to community enhancement led him down a continued path to serve his state. He spent 10 years in the General Assembly where he introduced a basic education plan that put thousands of teacher in classrooms.
In 1988, he was elected as state Superintendent of Public Instruction for two terms.
"We put in the report card for the first time, increased teacher salary, increased teachers and teacher assistance, education has been that common denominator..." he said.
Before his defeat in 2010, Etheridge then went on to serve in Congress for 14 years. His goal was to build and renovate schools, and increase accessibility for college scholarships.
Now in his run to become North Carolina's next governor, public education continues to drive his campaign. He said he believes the future of North Carolina starts in the classroom.
“Never have I seen the challenges as great as I've seen right now,” he said.
Etheridge says a skilled workforce is the foundation for economic prosperity – an equation he said brings more jobs and opportunity.
“You cannot move forward by taking the legs off of our community colleges and universities that provide research and opportunity for the future,” said Etheridge.
“It's imperative to have a governor that is committed to economic growth, that understands people need jobs, but you're not going to get those jobs unless you get the investment in public education,” he said.
Etheridge said with recent strong showings by Republicans in state races, he said he believes it's essential the primary vote goes to a strong Democratic candidate who can compete against a tough Republican challenger in November.
“Leadership, vision, and I know how to do it, have done it and that's what the state needs right now,” he said. “I'm looking forward to the opportunity and I hope folks will allow me that opportunity May 8 and I can promise I will work hard has I've always done.”