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Incumbent Deb Olson, Aslesen win seats on Mitchell Board of Education

Winners rise to top of six-candidate field, will take seats in July

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James Matthews, Susan Kiepke and Nikki Weber count ballots at the old Davison County Courthouse Tuesday, June 7, following closure of the polls during the 2022 South Dakota primary election.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — Mitchell Board of Education candidates Deb Olson and Terry Aslesen won the two open seats on the five-person board Tuesday evening, June 7 as part of the 2022 Primary Election in Mitchell.

The pair, who garnered 1,674 and 1,613 votes, respectively, beat out a field of six total candidates for a pair of three-year seats on the board. Those two totals account for 24% and 23% of the total votes cast. The two will fill the seats currently held by Deb Olson and Kevin Kenkel, the second of whom did not choose to seek re-election to the board at the conclusion of his term.

Also receiving votes were Tim Moon with 1,226 votes, or 18% of votes cast, Jeff Sand with 1,191 votes or 17%, Chris Foster with 653 votes or 9% and David Lambert with 578 votes or 8% of the vote. All elected terms on the board are for three years.

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Deb Olson
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Olson said she was pleased the voters chose her to continue with another three-year term on the board, on which she has served for a decade.

“I am humbled and very grateful, honestly. I was never confident that this was going to be the outcome but I appreciate the support of the voters and electorate. I look forward to what the next three years will bring,” Olson said.

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It will be the first term for Aslesen on the Mitchell Board of Education. A former educator and administrator, he campaigned for the position on a platform of recruiting and keeping the best possible employees the district can find. He said he was happy to step up to the challenge and represent the public on the board.

“I had never run in a political race at all so this was kind of fun to be on the top side. I appreciate the people who supported me and I’m looking forward to working with the rest of the board members,” Aslesen said.

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Terry Aslesen
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

The election for the two seats on the Mitchell Board of Education caps the second straight year that six candidates have chosen to run for two open seats on the board. In total, 12 different candidates have been on the ballot the last two election cycles. Brittni Flood and Shawn Ruml received the most votes during the 2021 election and took their seats on the board, replacing Lacey Musick and Neil Putnam, both of whom chose not to run for re-election in that race.

The last two years have proven to be a challenging and often tumultuous period for the Mitchell Board of Education. During that time, the COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted in-person classes and activities in the Mitchell School District, and a district-wide mask mandate stirred controversy among the public, with some opposing masks as ineffective or even detrimental to student and staff health.

Political issues such as the teaching of Critical Race Theory also seeped into the public commentary portion of some board meetings, and plans for a new high school building raised questions about transparency and financial responsibility among some district patrons and candidates.

The current board is made up of Olson, Ruml, Christiansen, Kenkel and Flood. When the two new board members take their seats on the board in July, the board will be composed of Olson, Aslesen, Christiansen, Ruml and Flood.

Voter turnout for the Mitchell Board of Education was approximately 35% in Davison County, according to local election officials.

DISCLAIMER: All voting data is sourced from the South Dakota Secretary of State’s website and from county auditors. Results from Tuesday’s primary are considered unofficial until certified by the South Dakota Secretary of State.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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