Bonnie Cassel was reinstated to the Lodi Unified School District board of trustees after an interview by her fellow board members at a special meeting on Tuesday.
A technicality regarding her apparent absence from the board this summer required that her seat representing Area 1 be opened up to the public through a provisional appointment process.
Cassel was up against Thomas Sanchez, 52, a businessman from Morada eager to begin a post-retirement career in public service.
Cassel took a summer job working as an interpretive park ranger at Yellowstone National Park. During that time, she may have spent more than 60 days out of state. That violates her contract as a trustee, and required the board to open the seat to all applicants.
Cassel apologized for the inconvenience the appointment process was causing.
“I realize my situation has caused you more work, but I appreciate the good humor with which you have taken it in stride,” she said to the board.
Sanchez, a director of business development for Waste Management, lives in Morada and based his qualification for the board on his business background. He has wanted to join the board for some time, and saw the provisional appointment as an open door.
“Unfortunately for Bonnie, she left the door open. I saw the opportunity and I walked in,” he said.
The pair responded to half a dozen questions during a public interview and deliberation process that took less than an hour.
All the trustees were in support of Cassel continuing.
“Thousands of people already voted for her when she was elected,” said trustee Michael Abdallah. “In my opinion, we should listen to what the people wanted and let her finish her term.”
In a unanimous vote, the board of trustees decided to reinstate Cassel to the Area 1 seat for the remainder of her term, which ends in December 2014. The region covers a large area east of Lodi stretching to the Amador County border. Trustees earn a monthly stipend of $675.
Sanchez was disappointed by the decision, but not surprised.
“I tried to analyze whether I could win, and I thought I had a shot. But it can be hard to throw out someone within the board,” he said.
Cassel said she is returning to her seat on the board with renewed dedication.
“It gave me pause, thinking of all the unfinished business I have to do here,” she said.