Mountain View Voice

News - July 13, 2012

Big election in works for district board

Five candidates line up for three open seats

by Nick Veronin

With three out of five trustees of the local elementary and middle school district announcing they will not seek re-election this fall, it promises to be an interesting election season for voters in the Mountain View Whisman School District.

After it was announced on July 6 that Fiona Walter, Ed Bailey and Steve Olson would not run again when their terms expire this November, there is already a field of five would-be candidates.

Priscila Bogdanic, Peter Darrah, Bill Lambert, Steve Nelson and Jim Pollart have announced their intention to run for one of the three seats (See related story on Page 6). Should all five follow through and file papers, it would lay the groundwork for a contest the likes of which has not seen in several election cycles, as candidates for the Mountain View Whisman board often run unopposed.

The last three district board elections were uncontested, according to trustee Ellen Wheeler.

"We haven't had an election where more people ran than were spaces since 2004," she said, adding that this is the first time she has seen three board members simultaneously step down since she was elected in 2002. "The thing that's important about three is that is the magic number to be a majority of the board."

"Fiona (Walter), Ed (Bailey) and I wanted to let you know that all three of us are not planning to seek reelection in November," Olson wrote in an email to the Voice, noting that all three are departing for unrelated reasons. "It has been a tremendous pleasure to serve the district and I feel blessed to have worked with thoughtful and committed team of trustees and district administrators."

When reached by phone, Olson said he is anticipating an interesting election, and that he hopes the board will benefit from "fresh perspectives" in 2013. "I think it's good for the district," he said, recalling past contested trustee seats resulted in public debates that brought many district issues to the fore of public discourse.

"I remember attending debates between school board candidates in previous elections," Olson said. "It was a great thing for the community, I thought, to have that kind of dialogue."

All five of the candidates have lived in Mountain View for 10 years or more and have children that are attending or have attended district schools. Bogdanic, Darrah, Lambert and Pollart all supported Measure G, the $198 million bond approved by voters in June.

Nelson did not support Measure G. Although he has frequently advocated spending more money on local schools, he repeatedly criticized the board for not doing enough to gather community input in the lead up to the Measure G election and headed up an anti-Measure G campaign in an effort to send the bond back to the drawing board.

Olson couldn't comment on the reasons his colleagues — Walter and Bailey — had for deciding not to run again. Speaking for himself, though, the board president said he would like to dedicate more time to his two young children and his mother.

"I was happy to step up and serve," he said, but added: "It's a challenge, I have to say. I have a full time job."

Olson is leaving the district after serving for four years. He was elected in 2008 to the seat, which had been left by Gloria Higgins.

Walter is coming to the end of her second four-year term in November. Olson said she is currently on vacation, and she could not be reached for comment.

Bailey has served on the board for about five years. He was first appointed to his seat about a year before running for reelection unopposed in November 2008. He could not be reached for comment.

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