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Iowa City school board election yields near-record turnout

BY JORDYN REILAND | SEPTEMBER 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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Only one incumbent School Board member will return to the Iowa City School Board following Tuesday’s election, which brought a near-record number of voters to polls in Johnson County.

Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett said the 4,485 voters is the second highest turnout for a school election in 32 years.

School Board President Patti Fields was the only incumbent running for re-election in Tuesday’s race. She said the increased turnout is a positive sign.

“One year when I ran, I saw a 5 percent turnout; the next year I saw 3 percent, so it’s really encouraging to see voters come out and become more engaged in their community,” she said.

Four of the board members-elect — Marla Swesey, Jeff McGinness, Patti Fields, and Sally Hoelscher — will serve four-year terms. Karla Cook will have a two-year term to fill a seat vacated by Mike Cooper’s resignation.

“I feel a combination of relief and a little bit overwhelmed knowing that while this process was hard — but I am looking forward to serving the community,” McGinness said.

The Iowa City native said his motivation to run came from having three children who will go through the School District. He is looking forward to giving back to the community that gave so much to him.

McGinness said transparency is key on a School Board because it will help to prevent problems from occurring twice.

Positively is another goal of McGinness’ who wants the board to consider each issue as an “opportunity, not a challenge,” he recently told the DI .

Swesey, a former teacher in the Iowa City area for 26 years, shared her excitement for the increased number in voters and her victory.

“I am very happy and proud of the community for showing up to the polls, and for believing that I was one of the right candidates,” she said.

Her main concerns are making sure the community input is always heard regarding decisions the board makes. She also wants to make sure the board practices fiscal responsibility, allocating money so it does not become wasted.

Cook, a former teacher for 29 years, feels very happy and honored that voters believed she was the right candidate.

“I didn’t exactly come with an agenda in mind, although communication within the community is a big priority,” Cook said.

She wants to make sure the community and students understand why and how the School Board members make their decisions.

Fields was almost beaten by candidate Phil Hemingway, who finished only 367 votes behind her.

“I am proud of the last six years that I have had on this board, and I am looking forward to being able to meet my new fellow board members and getting these next four years started,” she said.

She hopes to focus on long-range plans for enrollment facilities and increasing achievement.


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