ELECTION 2022: School board to get one new trustee, two others returning

The Brown County School Board will see just one new trustee join the table following Election Day, with two current members re-elected for another term.

Each of the three districts had a competitive race. Dist. 1 only had two candidates in the running, with final vote counts sitting around a 240-vote difference.

Carol Bowden, who has been a board member since 2007, came out on top with a total of 2,492 votes. Kevin Patrick ended up just behind, with 2,258 votes.

Dist. 2 had three candidates facing off for the seat, Vicki Harden, the winner with 2,013 votes, followed by Jenise Bohbrink with 1,723 votes and Kady Lane with 1,233 votes.

The seat for Dist. 3 was sought by four candidates. The winner was Doug Payne with 1,759 votes, followed by Kevin McCracken with 1,461 votes, Ed Wojdyla with 934 and Mark Smith with 751.

Bowden, the winner of Dist. 1, said last week she checked the vote counts a few times after she got home on Election Day, but she had to go to bed for work before she could see the final numbers. Bowden is physical therapist, doing home care in six counties.

The first notice Bowden received about her victory was a congratulations from a community member.

“That’s when I knew that I won, and I went and looked to see what the stats were, which really made me happy,” she said.

Bowden thanked the voters for the honor of being able to serve, and said she will be working hard to do her “very best.”

She said her goal is for the schools to continue to provide “excellent education opportunities” for students in all areas.

“For college, career opportunities in skill trades and life skills to maximize everybody’s potential for their journey in life,” she continued.

She hopes to continue “fiscal responsibility” with her position on the school board. She also aims to continue to promote graduate skills for students of all levels, “so they can meet their goals, whatever those goals may be, for their next chapter in life.”

Bowden said she is a firm believer in lifelong learning, and she aims to promote that so people have skills and are able to engage “wherever they are in life’s journey.”

When asked last week about winning the Dist. 3 seat, Payne said he was both surprised and not surprised.

“You just never know with an election what’s going to happen,” he said.

Payne said he was happy with the outcome, and that he wants to represent the county people and utilize taxpayer money in “the right way.”

While campaigning, Payne said his strategy was to stay as “low profile” as he possibly could and do what he felt like he needed to do.

“If the good Lord wanted me to win, he’d put me in the position,” he said.

Payne said he is honored to fill the seat and that he now has to prove himself, adding that he is not really serving the board, but serving the students in Brown County Schools.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, it’s not going to be fixed overnight,” he said.

Payne said he would like to see trades brought back into schools to give avenues for students who are not interested in attending college after graduation.

He also would love to see agricultural programs introduced into the schools.

“(There may be) a lot of rural kids that may not live on a farm but have an interest in agriculture,” he said.

In addition, he would like to explore a anti-drug program.

“Things have changed drastically over the years in addiction,” he said.

“I think there’s things that need to be addressed, I’m curious how we can do it.”

Harden could not be reached for comment by deadline.

A new respect

Patrick lost to Bowden by a small window in the race for the Dist. 1 seat and described the campaign as a challenging experience.

Having never run for office before, he learned to navigate events and forums, noting them as specific challenges he faced through the campaigning process.

“I’m more a one-on-one person, I like to sit down, ask questions back and forth and have a conversation,” he said.

“My main focus was trying to get out in front of the people.”

Patrick said as it got down to the final counts on Election Day, he felt he had done almost everything he could do.

“Overall, I’m pretty happy with the first effort. I’m disappointed I lost, but, it was a lot of work,” he said.

Despite the loss, Patrick thanked those who voted for him and still wants to be engaged with the community and aims to help the schools where he can.

Though results didn’t go in her favor, Dist. 2 candidate Bohbrink said the election process was fun.

“I enjoyed getting out and talking with people, letting them know why I was running, interacting with the public and voters,” she said.

”I wanted a rolling tally (of votes on Election Day). I got anxious when they started rolling in.”

She was still disappointed about the loss.

“When you run for something you would prefer to win,” she said.

However, her fight is not over.

“You will see Bohbrink run again. I will run and encourage other parents to run,” she said.

“As elections come, educate yourself on all of those running. It’s a privilege to be able to vote. It’s important as voters to do your due diligence and know your vote, not just a name. Base your vote on a person that’s going to do the best job.”

Lane, who took last place in the race for the Dist. 2 seat, said last week the election didn’t go the way she thought that it would.

She became injured during the campaign, with a broken ankle leaving her unable to go out and campaign or go to polling locations on Election Day.

“It was kind of heartbreaking,” Lane said about losing.

Despite the injury or the outcome, she felt really positive feedback from voters.

“I’d like to thank everybody who supported me, who sent me a kind message, who stood by my side and still does,” she said.

McCracken came second in the race for the Dist. 3 seat, and described Election Day as “surprisingly gratifying,” with visiting precincts and talking with people was a highlight of the whole campaign.

“It was a nice experience. Overall, I really enjoyed the campaign,” he said.

“At times it was a lot of work. It helped me gain a new respect for the whole public service process.”

After seeing the results of the election, McCracken said he was disappointed, for a few reasons.

”It’s a pivotal time for Brown County schools,” he said.

“I completely support the (election) process and hope that Payne does right by the schools in the coming years,” he said.

In addition to the disappointment in his loss, he was also disappointed the school corporation’s operating referendum did not pass and the lack of time given to Brown County League of Women Voters forums.

He said it was “an affront to the democratic process” that people would choose not to participate in the forums.

About why candidates did not participate, McCracken said he thought voters may assume that candidates had something to hide.

“Whether it’s a policy position or an impairment, lack of strength in an area they don’t want to share, vocal candidates don’t have to be perfect, but they have to be known,” he said.

McCracken said he is undecided on running again.

“The only thing I know for sure is serving my community,” he said.

“What will not change is my support for schools, teachers and students. What that looks like and how I incorporate, I’ve got time to figure that out.”

Wojdyla, who came in third for the Dist. 3 seat, said Election Day was a lot of fun.

“It is nice to be out to see old friends and make a few new ones,” he said in an email last week.

Even though his profession is in finance, Wojdyla said he did not run for school board because of the financial aspect.

“I ran because we need to understand why, fundamentally, our families are choosing to no longer be a part of the system,” he said.

He said it was difficult to get the word out, because the school board election was “overshadowed” by the referendum question, and because the League of Women Voters forum, despite being a good platform or communication, was not well attended.

He said he was “disappointed but not surprised” about the outcome.

“Given my absence from community service due to my job for a decade, I had a huge name recognition gap that was hard to overcome,” he said.

He also said he believed he was not the best potential member that lost.

“I am disappointed that other candidates didn’t get into the position to do the most good,” he said.

Wojdyla said everyone wants the current situation to get better, and if the community does not see improvement, questions must be raised about who is best to help.

“We must work toward getting the best candidates to win elections,” he said.

Smith could not be reached for comment by deadline.