Incumbents lead school board races

Some new voices move forward to general election

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter

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Candidates for Evergreen School Board, District 1, Megan Miles, left, and Julie Bocanegra meet with The Columbian’s editorial board July 6. Bocanegra is leading with 57 percent of the votes, and Miles trails with 36.5 percent. (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian)

Voters in three Clark County school districts narrowed the field in four school board races, sending incumbents forward while welcoming new voices into the fray.

The top two candidates in each non-partisan race head on to the general election in November.

Evergreen Public Schools, District 5

Ginny Gronwoldt, a business lending officer, led the competition for the Evergreen Public Schools board District 5 position with 50.08 percent of the vote.

Gronwoldt, former president of the Evergreen School District Foundation, said voters responded to her “proven success and history” working with the district.

“I’ve been working with the foundation on working closely with the administrators and the teachers and the staff to bridge the needs and the gaps within the district,” she said.

It was a tight race for the second-place seat between Park Llafet, a piano salesman, and Janelle Tuominen, a stay-at-home mother of three. Llafet had 21.59 percent of the vote, with Tuominen trailing with 18.10 percent.

“They are what they are, and you have to take a big breath and start new tomorrow and go after it tomorrow,” Llafet said.

Tuominen thanked her supporters and endorsers and said that if she loses, she will continue volunteering in schools.

A fourth candidate, James “Jimmy Tee” Taylor, received 62 votes — or 0.57 percent of the 11,595 ballots counted in the race.

The spot is currently held by Michael Parsons, who is not running for re-election this year.

Evergreen Public Schools, District 1

Julie Bocanegra, a vice president branch manager for Columbia Credit Union and the incumbent on the Evergreen Public Schools board District 1, had a decisive lead of 57.2 percent of the votes.

Megan Miles, a music teacher at Hockinson Heights Elementary School, trailed her with 36.45 percent of the vote.

“I am extremely happy with my results,” Bocanegra said. “I think it said a lot about our schools, that people are happy with Evergreen and the work that we’re doing and it makes me really excited.”

Miles said she has “a lot of work to do” to put her name and message in front of voters.

“When we’re making decisions for our schools and our students, we need a teacher’s voice on the board,” she said. “I think I need to get myself out there some more.”

A third candidate, Clark College student Dennis Jeppson, ended his campaign last month, though the deadline to officially withdraw from the race had passed. The 18-year-old received 5.85 percent of the vote.

Vancouver Public Schools, Position 2

Mark Stoker, a Vancouver attorney and the decadelong incumbent on the Vancouver Public Schools board, Position 2 seat, took a whopping 75.06 percent of the primary election’s votes.

Only 28 votes, meanwhile, separated Anthony Licerio, a service agent who called for improved representation for minority voices, and Clark College student Shantel Okorie. Licerio received 1,638, or 12.23 percent of the votes, while Okorie received 1,610 votes, or 12.02 percent.

“I’ll definitely have to find some inspiration, a bucket of it to target those voters I’m looking for,” Licerio said, blaming burnout from last year’s national election for the low voter turnout.

Okorie did not return a phone call from The Columbian to the number she provided to the Clark County Elections Office. Okorie had previously told the newspaper she was withdrawing from the race, then several days later said she would be running an active campaign, after all.

Hockinson School District, District 5

Gordon Smith and Scott Swindell appeared poised to continue to the November general for Hockinson School District, District 5 school board seat. Smith took 42.46 percent of the 1,185 ballots cast, while Swindell, who currently holds the seat, took 33.31 percent.

A third candidate, Lorin Erickson, trailed with 23.47 percent of the votes.

Smith was returning from picking berries with his sons when The Columbian called, and he had not heard the results.

“I think that’s great news as far as initial results go,” Smith said. “I think it looks to me like there’s a good amount of support for what I represent. I think I represent a new voice, that’s for sure, a strong supporter of our administration.”