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Hagen: What created such an uptick in school board elections?

Extremely tough decisions had to be made in the past two-plus years with school closures, mask mandates, teacher and administration salaries and funding for a new high school.

Luke Hagen column sig.jpg
Mitchell Republic Editor Luke Hagen.
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Have you noticed any of the political yard signs around town? There’s quite a few.

It’s another election season.

In just about a month, on June 7, voters will go to the polls to support local candidates vying for school board, state government and other open seats.

And for a second straight year, we have more people taking the brave stance that they are the best person to serve us, the taxpayers. It’s important to commend those people who believe they can make a difference in their community. Win or lose in June, each person who signed up to be on the ballot is courageous to ask for a vote.

It’s thrilling to see a vast pool of candidates running. Given there are so many “I’m-right-and-you’re wrong” opinions in today’s world, it’s good to see people put their money where their mouths are and actually get on the ballot rather than just complain.

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For instance, the Mitchell Board of Education race has six people running for two open seats. That’s the same number of candidates who signed up to run in the 2021 election for two spots. Twelve people in a matter of two years believed they could help create policies for student success and best decide where to spend our public taxpayer dollars.

In a community of more than 15,000, six candidates for two school board seats shouldn’t be such a surprise. But it is.

Six candidates running each of the past two school board election cycles are the largest pools in more than a decade. Comparatively, 2012 and 2013 saw four people run for two seats each year, and five of the past 10 years there was not enough candidates for an election.

What’s created such an uptick in election participation?

While only speculative, more people believe they can create a better future for our kids after the world went into chaos. And considering the school board election directly impacts our children, more candidates have raised their hands in hopes of making an impact. They're certainly not running for the $1,200-per-year compensation.

Extremely tough decisions had to be made in the past two-plus years with school closures, mask mandates, teacher and administration salaries and funding for a new high school. It’s not unreasonable to believe some of the community’s pushback to these decisions has caused board members not to seek re-election.

And knowing that more difficult decisions are upcoming is exactly why you, the voter, should be informed this election season. On Tuesday, May 17, the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce’s Governmental Affairs committee is hosting a candidate forum from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Dakota Wesleyan University Sherman Center.

For those who cannot attend in person, the Mitchell Republic will be live-streaming the event on our website, open and all-access, for the community to watch. All six school board candidates have been invited to attend -- including, listed alphabetically, Terry Aslesen, Chris Foster, David Lambert, Tim Moon, incumbent Deb Olson and Jeff Sand. (Additionally, the local state representative forum will be held and livestreamed with three candidates vying for two seats.)

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Whether attending the forum on DWU’s campus or watching on our livestream, we hope all registered voters carefully listen to the candidates and how they hope to make a mark on our school district. This column is not intended to be an endorsement of any of those who are running, only a reminder that being an educated voter is the best path to making a positive difference in the community.

One lesson from the past two years is that people develop their strongest opinions on topics that impact them directly. Are we voting for our friends? Are we voting for the loudest person? Remember, no one sees your ballot on Election Day except you.

Listen closely and make yourself informed. It’s so important with a large candidate pool.

Opinion by Luke Hagen
Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at lhagen@mitchellrepublic.com.
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