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Olson, Johnson win school board seats

Mitchell Board of Education candidates, from left, Rick Johnson, Deb Olson, Rod Hall and Tara Volesky participate in a forum at the Ramada in Mitchell prior to the June 4 election. The forum was organized by the Mitchell Rotary Club. (Jordan Steffen/Daily Republic)

School board candidates Deb Olson and Rick Johnson defeated opponents Rod Hall and Tara Volesky in Tuesday's Mitchell Board of Education election.

Of the 1,707 ballots cast, Olson received 1,227, or 36.59 percent of the vote; Johnson got 1,165 votes, or 34.75 percent; Hall received 440 votes, or 13.12 percent; and Volesky registered 521 votes, or 15.54 percent.

Election officials said turnout was 14.3 percent, roughly double the 7.6 percent turnout for the last standalone school board election in 2007.

"It's a great turnout for the citizens of Mitchell," said School District Business Manager Steve Culhane.

County Auditor Susan Kiepke said 11,906 registered voters were eligible to vote in Tuesday's election, including 11,492 Davison County voters and 414 voters from Hanson County.

Retired elementary school principal Deb Olson celebrated with family and friends after hearing the news of her win.

"I didn't think it would be such an overwhelming vote," she said. "I'm thankful for the confidence of those who voted for me."

Olson said she was contacted by fellow victor Rick Johnson after hearing the election results.

"He said he was looking forward to working together to serve the students and staff of the Mitchell School District," Olson said.

Johnson said he spent Tuesday evening fielding a series of congratulatory phone calls. He also thanked supporters.

"It's been an exhilarating experience," he said. Johnson counted the solid voter turnout as a positive sign. "It shows the community really cares about education," he said.

Candidate Tara Volesky was shocked by her defeat.

"I really thought it would go the other way," she said. "I thought we'd have a landslide, I really did. I thought we ran a really good, clean, factual race."

The vote was clear evidence Mitchell voters want a new fine arts center, she said. She made opposition to the proposal a central focus of her campaign.

"I'd rather have a remodeled high school for the kids now," she said.

Candidate Rod Hall could not be reached for comment.

Olson and Johnson will take the seats of current board members Eric Christensen and Brenda Freidel, who did not seek re-election.

The terms are three years and begin next month.