School board elections boast unusually high voter turnout
As election results were called Tuesday night at the Faulkner County Courthouse, a group of school board candidates and their supporters learned who will, and who won't, be helping make decisions that will affect local students for the next five years.
Dr. Adam Lamey will soon attend his first meeting as a member of the Conway School District's Board of Education, after his victory over Glenn Dunham and Ron Hill for the open at-large Position 5 seat. In an unusually high voter turnout election, Lamey received 703 votes, including totals from Tuesday and also early and absentee voting, while Dunham received 244 and Hill received 342.
"It's very exciting," Lamey said after hearing the news of his win. "I'm excited to be on the board and to give something to our school, and I attribute it to the community support and my campaign manager who ran a wonderful campaign and really got people to come out and vote."
Lamey said he looks forward to sitting with the other board members and helping them make decisions for the district; however, he said he most immediately looks forwarding to learning from their experiences.
"First and foremost in my first meeting, I'm going to be using one of my favorite quotes and that's 'Never miss a good opportunity to keep your mouth shut,'" Lamey said. "I'm going to be listening to how they run the district and learning a lot from my fellow board members."
In the Greenbrier School District, patrons will see a familiar face on the Board of Education as George Roberts was re-elected to his Position 4 seat over challengers Jason Squires and Ken Rasure.
The unofficial totals Tuesday night showed Roberts with 375 total votes, Rasure with 123 votes and Squires with 140 votes.
"Well, today's election went pretty well, obviously. We just had a good turnout and a lot of people really helped me and worked for several days to get the vote out," Roberts said. "And I'm very thankful to those who both turned out to vote and those who supported me in my campaign."
Roberts said he owes his win to the fact that Greenbrier already has a good district and he sees this as the community saying the board is taking it in a good direction.
"Now we have to just continue to accommodate our growth in the district, we're going to replace the Dean Martin middle school building soon," Roberts said. "And we will continue to focus on academics, we're just trying to make sure we don't leave any kids behind."
Terry L. Jones also reclaimed his Position 5 seat on the Mayflower School District's Board of Education after Tuesday's election, as he defeated his challenger, Sherilee Holland, 212-205.
After the election, Jones said he was glad the race was finished and he was ready to get back to work.
"Sherilee ran a good race. I have a lot of respect for her, and I'm glad it's over," Jones said. "I'm just ready to get the focus back on improving the educational opportunities for our children."
Since Jones' position on the board is now secure, he said he is ready to pursue some of the primary issues he discussed with the residents of Mayflower while campaigning.
"We still have communication issues we need to work on between the staff and the administration and the board and the public, and we just need to get back on track and refocused and do what's best for our kids," Jones said. "We need to be creating more opportunities for them, because that's what this is all about, getting our kids prepared for when they get out of school."
Two winners were declared for the Vilonia School District's Board of Education Tuesday night and both are returning to the board after previously holding their respective positions.
Scott Newell won the race for the Position 3 seat with 312 votes against candidates Darrel "Butch" Money with 102 votes and Phillip Toll with 178 votes. Newell, who resigned from the board in July, said he was excited to be back.
"I want to thank everybody who went out and voted in the election, and I especially want to thank all my family and friends who worked on the campaign," Newell said. "I know they worked hard and I want them to know how much I appreciate it."
Newell said now that he is back on the board, he wants to focus on the many challenges the Vilonia School District will face in the next few years surrounding growth.
"We've got a lot of decisions to make on how to handle that growth, whether it's building a new elementary school or high school," Newell said. "My kids both go there, and I'm honored to be up there taking part in those decisions and, hopefully, we'll make the right ones."
Jerry Roberts, who also resigned from the board during its July meeting, was elected to the Position 7 seat on the Vilonia board in a close 311-298 election over Kathy French.
Roberts did not return calls Tuesday night, but has recently said that his 19 years on the board constitute the experience needed to make decisions concerning the school's future. A retiree, Roberts has also said he can dedicate a great deal of his time to the position.
"I'm a positive force," he said earlier this month. "I've been on the board a long time. I work well with the other board members already and I have a lot to contribute. I'm accessible."
Roberts suffers from idiopathic myelofibrosis (IM), a rare and potentially life-threatening disease for which he had been scheduled experimental treatment.
"I'm feeling better," he said. "I enjoy serving and my doctor said it is good for me to stay busy. I don't think my health is a concern."
Another incumbent was named a winner Tuesday night and will return to his Zone 2 seat on the Mount Vernon-Enola School District's Board of Education.
Wayne Beene, who defeated James A. Tony Beene Jr. in a 54-33 vote, said he wanted to thank the voters for their continued confidence.
"I just appreciate the help they've given me," Wayne Beene said. "We really don't have a lot going on right now. We've been building for the past three or four years, and we're going to have to cut down on the building a little bit. We've got a good school and good buildings. We've got a good superintendent and good principals, a good teaching staff and good test scores. We just kind of want to keep it the same."
After the results were tallied, Faulkner County Clerk Melinda Reynolds said she was very pleased and surprised with the unusually high turnout in every district with a contested race. She said the candidates must have campaigned hard this year as most polling sites surpassed their voter predictions.
It was apparent early Tuesday that more voters than normal were making their way to the polls to cast a ballot in the school election. Several election officials said more residents than expected showed up to vote during the morning hours.
In the race for the board position in Greenbrier, the total was nearing 100 as early as 9:45 a.m.
According to Loetta Bradford, one of the election officials at the Greenbrier City Events Center, she was surprised to see such a high number before noon for a school election in the small town.
"They have been consistently coming through here this morning," Bradford said. "We have had about six to seven waiting in line at a time, but other than that they've been flowing through here very steadily. It's gone really well so far and it's going to be a good day here."
The polls closed Tuesday in Greenbrier with a total of 590 votes.
The voting trend continued in Conway during the morning, as more people than expected made their way to the polls. Doug Coppock, an election official at the McGee Center, said there was a total of 136 voters by 10:30 a.m., which was already more than halfway to their prediction of 250. There ended up being a total of 693 voters at the McGee Center and 137 at the Conway Sports Center.
"They have come in groups of five or more so far, but once we opened up the doors at 7:30 a.m., we've had a steady flow ever since," Coppock said.
(Staff writer Jessica Bauer can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)