Despite challengers, in the end two of the three Oak View School District's board incumbents appeared victorious in retaining their seats, according to semi-final election results released late Wednesday.
Incumbent Jeanne Pearson, who received 355 votes (15.6 percent), will be replaced by challenger John Vermeltfoort, who clenched second place with 395 votes (17.36 percent). Pearson has served on the board for 29 years.
Incumbents Mark Huft, with 440 votes, (19.34 percent) and Carol Pehl with 377 votes (16.57 percent), appear to have clenched the other two seats.
Reached by phone Thursday, Pearson said she wasn't quite ready to concede but admitted that in a district with roughly 1,100 voters, both Huft and Pehl's leads was probably unsurmoutable. "I guess I'm ready to hand it over to the younger generation, but 29 years is a long time," she added of her tenure.
Also likely out were Joel Maldonado, Jr. with 358 votes (15.74 percent) and Deborah Ward-Crummey with 345 votes (15.16 percent), according to the San Joaquin County Registrar's Office.
There still remains about 8,900 "provisional" ballots countywide to be counted and that will start next week, according to Registrar Austin Erdman.
It is not clear how many of those are from the tiny Oak View voting area.
On election night, Huft was the only clear winner in the race for three seats on this Acampo school board. With all four precincts reporting, unofficial results showed that Huft led the group of six with 301 votes.
At that time, only four votes separated the next three candidates — Pehl was second with 270 votes, followed by Pearson with 267 votes. But Vermeltfoort was just one vote behind Pearson with 266 votes.
Political newcomer Vermeltfoort, who has lived in the area for 34 years, ran because he believes Oak View needs board members who are parents of students currently attending the school. He has a 9-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son.
Vermeltfoort currently serves on the district's bond advisory committee and is active in helping in the parent-teacher club. He is a 1979 Oak View graduate.
In a previous interview, he said with his business background he can help the district discover untapped funding sources, as Oak View will need to come up with new funds to convert the existing multipurpose room and kitchen into a library, and offices for staff once current construction is complete.
To aid in better community communication, he wants to create new avenues including but not limited to Facebook, an on-line social network.
This year's race was unique because it's rare here for challengers to step out against incumbents. But some have said the current board has lost touch with the community, while others blame the unhappiness with government in general on wanting to oust current representatives.
Huft, first elected to the board 16 years ago, said in a pre-election interview he would continue to hold the line for extra expenses and reward staff in every possible way while keeping a close eye on declining revenue. He said he wants to look at funding opportunities and increasing enrollment to help.
Additionally, both Huft and Pehl said they will work to bring technology into the classrooms.
Pehl, of which Oak View School has been a part of her life for the last 31 years, wants to ensure now that the district has enough money to add a kitchen to the gymnasium currently under construction.
She also recognizes input from residents that the board needs to work on improving communication with all segments of the Oak View community.
Although all three Oak View incumbents sought re-election, it was a different story in the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District and the Arcohe Union School District where none of the incumbents did. And, in Lodi Unified, only two of the four incumbents ran.
"There's just not a really friendly attitude out there," said Laura Mulrooney, a board member in the one-school Arcohe district in Herald.
She said that dealing with the finances of a district facing steep state budget cuts isn't the hardest part of the job. "It's dealing with people who think you are lying or trying to hide something – community members."
Like outgoing Galt elementary trustee Donna Fluty, Mulrooney, a three-term Arcohe board member, said she decided it was time to let someone else fill the seat. The two other incumbents on each board also opted not to run this year.
Fluty served for more than 20 years while her children attended school in Galt. Fellow incumbents Bob Ellis and Tina Skinner were also on the Galt elementary board for many years.
In Lodi, incumbents Richard Jones and Jeff Thompson said they wanted to spend more time with their familes.
The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.