Incumbents out, challengers in as school board race heats upFour intend to run for two open seats.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
The Mitchell school board election is heating up.
Incumbents Eric Christensen and Brenda Freidel say they will not seek re-election, and at least four people plan to run for the two open seats: former L.B. Williams Elementary School principal Deb Olson, local retail store manager Rick Johnson, former Mitchell mayoral candidate Tara Volesky, and former school board member Rod Hall. The two seats are at-large positions, meaning candidates can reside anywhere within the school district boundaries.
Mitchell Superintendent Joe Graves said all four candidates have picked up their nomination petitions, but no petitions had been returned as of Wednesday.
Candidates have until 5 p.m. March 26 to return completed election petitions to school district business manager Steve Culhane. Candidates must collect 20 petition signatures from registered voters in the district to get on the ballot.
The election is June 4.
Hall, Volesky alliance
Volesky and Hall have declared an alliance. They promised to seek greater board transparency and to champion board meetings that are more responsive to the public.
“Tara asked me to run and we’re running as a team,” said Hall, 84, who was a school board member from 2002 to 2005.
Hall was a state senator from 1971 to 1976, and he also spent 14 years as a teacher and school administrator. In 2003, he was the recipient of the South Dakota Newspaper Association’s Eagle Award for his advocacy of open meetings.
Volesky, 53, who works as a mediator for child custody and divorce issues, said she admired Hall’s record and asked him to join her in offering Mitchell voters a more conservative alternative.
Former educator to run
Olson, 61, a 30-year veteran of education, said she retired to care for an ill parent. She has remained active as a substitute teacher.
“I realized that education, and students, continue to be very important to me,” she said.
Olson was principal at LBW for 13 years and also worked as special services director and technology and curriculum director for the Mitchell district.
“I hope to bring my background knowledge to the board and also my desire to serve the students of Mitchell and to keep them a priority,” she said.
Parent of six kids
Johnson, 50, works as store leader at the Mitchell J.C. Penney in the Palace Mall.
He and his wife Valerie and their six children have lived in Mitchell for five years. Three of their children attend John Paul II Elementary School, one attends Mitchell Middle School and two attend Mitchell High School.
“With that many kids I feel like I’ve got a vested interest in the school district,” Johnson said, “and I want to see what I can do to help.”
Other than time spent as president of a large homeowners’ association in a Dallas, Texas, suburb, Johnson said this will be his first time running for public office.
He has coached Little League football and soccer for many years, and he most recently volunteered as an assistant coach for the under-14 girls’ softball team in Mitchell for two seasons.