A new face garnered the most votes during local elections Tuesday to snag a spot on the Ottawa school board.
Shanda Olmsted, a lifelong Ottawa resident “seeking the position to foster meaningful change resulting in a lasting positive impact on the lives of USD 290 students, teachers and staff,” picked up 894 total votes.
“We need some new blood in there,” she told the Herald about the school board Wednesday.
Olmsted has worked in a variety of careers over the years, including as an accountant and for UPS. She has also served on the Eisenhower Elementary School site council and the Ottawa Middle School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). Olmsted is a mother of four, including two who are educators and one that is a freshman at Ottawa High School. She posted on her campaign’s Facebook page after results came in earlier this week that she was thankful for voters and “ready to get to work.”
“I want to make a difference, and this is an opportunity to hopefully make that happen,” Olmsted said.
One of the top issues Olmsted wants to address is school safety, especially after an incident this past spring where two students were arrested after a gun was found in a backpack at OHS. According to Herald archives, Olmsted said at the candidate forum in October the current board and district leaders have made efforts toward student safety, but have not gone far enough.
“I am a sounding board for people,” Olmsted had said. “I believe transparency will be very crucial. I want to be an advocate for all our teachers.”
Other issues important to her include helping the district become more “green” with recycling options, as well as having a “frugal mindset” when it comes to the overall budget.
“I will spend each and every dollar as if it was my own,” Olmsted wrote in October on her campaign’s Facebook page. “We will spend where we need to provide a quality education for all students, provide resources for professional educators, and maintain our buildings properly. That said, we will spend each and every dollar wisely, and not be wasteful with the taxpayers money.”
Olmsted said she has an open door policy.
“I’m not afraid to ask questions. I hope to continue that way and not just go with the flow,” she said.
The two other school board spots up for debate were filled by incumbent Lynda Alderman (718 votes), who taught first grade at Eisenhower Elementary School for 31 years, and newcomer Chris Cunningham. Cunningham edged out incumbent board member Tim Catlin with 601 votes to Catlin’s 560. This would have been Catlin’s second term.
Jeanne Stroh, Ottawa school district superintendent, said she’s looking forward to Olmsted and Cunningham joining their team, and that she will meet with them within the next week to discuss the school board’s dynamic, structure and expectations.
“I think with every school board member, the important thing that each brings to the board is their unique experiences and perspective, and everybody has expertise in different areas, and both as parents and as professionals, and so we look forward to that unique perspective from each of the board members,” Stroh said.
Cunningham has been an Ottawa resident since 2001. At the candidate forum last month, he said he is invested in the community and schools. Also at the forum, Cunningham mentioned improving graduation rates as one of his top priorities.
“My goal is to set the bar at 90 percent or above and make our graduation rate even higher,” Cunningham had said. “There is a lot of dynamics that [go into] that graduation rate.”
Other vote-getters Tuesday for the four open school board seats were Cassie Thompson-Myers (525), Diana Staresinic-Deane (418), Norman Wooge (268) and Melissa Pippin (177).
Blake Jorgensen, executive vice president of the Kansas State Bank and incumbent city commissioner, swept the most votes for city commission during local elections with 975. Jorgensen said he is excited to be elected to his fifth term as an Ottawa city commissioner.
Jorgensen said there are a “number of things” he’d like to see come to fruition during the next few years, including:
Finish developing Proximity Park to allow it to be marketed as “shovel ready” to attract clean industrial tenants to the community.
Continue to develop sidewalks/trails in town — especially near the schools — to make Ottawa more walkable.
Continue to march toward eliminating gravel streets in town by paving, or at least chip and sealing existing ones.
Continue to develop play areas in the community for people of all ages.
Work toward creating additional decent housing choices within Ottawa — both new construction and rehabbed existing stock.
Further development of retail shopping opportunities in town.
Mike Skidmore, former Ottawa mayor, and Emily Graves also will retain their seats on the commission, with 883 votes and 792 votes, respectively. Challenger Tom Weigand won the fourth seat with 608 votes. He will serve a two-year term.
Weigand has been a resident of rural Franklin County since 1951, he said, but moved to Geary County for three years to serve as the president and chief executive officer of the Junction City Chamber. He moved to Ottawa in 2015.
“I think I can bring my experiences in business, my experience in county government, economic development, real estate, and serving on different boards and committees to the commission,” Weigand said Wednesday. “I feel like I know how to bring people together and lead them to a good decision.”
Weigand also served 10 years as president and CEO of the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce and has been a licensed realtor since 1990. In 1996, he was appointed to the Franklin County Commission to fill an unexpired term. He then served another four-year term on the county commission.
As far as Ottawa’s city commission, Weigand said they need to focus on economic development and bringing more investment in.
“We’ve started a new business park [Proximity Park], and I want to pursue that,” he said. “My background is in commercial and industrial real estate and chamber and economic development work, so I think I can bring that to the table. Plus, I want to ask more questions about the city commission meetings other than just voting. I want to make sure the public understands what the purpose of the vote is.”
According to Weigand’s biography handed out at the candidate forum, he believes the city commission “has an important role to play in the growth of the city and our community.” Weigand said the city must challenge itself to “accommodate growth [and] to welcome new ideas.”
“I just want to be involved and get people involved and focus on the right things to grow ottawa — grow their housing, grow their jobs and their investments, and keep taxes as low as we can,” Weigand told the Herald.
Also on the ballot, Brett Staneslow gathered 467 votes, followed by 283 write-in votes. Eric Crowley, who ran as a write-in candidate, likely received most of those votes, though recipients of the write-in votes were not identified. Crowley had served the last two months as a city commissioner, filling the abandoned seat of Linda Reed, former Ottawa mayor, who resigned in April, stating that she and her husband would be moving outside of Ottawa city limits to be closer to family.
MORE ELECTION RESULTS
School board races:
Central Heights (USD 288) Position 4: Jack Davis (310), Chris Compton (137); Position 5: Billy Johnson (375), Kit Detwiler (83); Position 6: Shawn Cardin (370).
Wellsville (USD 289) Position 3: Jeremi Thompson (413); Position 4: Shane Pruitt (315), Tamera Aamold (120); Position 5: Amanda Donovan (324), Clyde Coons (130); Position 6: Todd Wilmarth (335), Juanita Peckham (122).
West Franklin (USD 287) Position 3: Julie Spielman (316); Position 4: Ryan Sink (324); Position 5: Dorothy Pritchard (319); Position 6: Dealy Sims (279).
City races across the county:
Lane Mayor: Write-in (35).
Lane City Council (Top three win seats): Write-in (72).
Pomona Mayor: Marie Seneca (75), Gene Hirt (13).
Pomona City Council (Top two win seats): Kim Giffin (77), Jerald Johnson (60).
Princeton Mayor: Chris Hutchinson (33).
Princeton City Council (Top five win seats): Ronald Atchison (31), Kathy Jones (31), Michael “Kent” Schulte (31), Kathrine Tooley (30), Carol Lingo (28).
Rantoul Mayor: Ronald Parks (29), Write-in (16).
Rantoul City Council (Top five win seats): Mark Johnson (36), Dale Van Horn (35), Susan Stottlemire (33), Gracie Castleberry (33), Mary Gormly (19), Dorothy Jackson (12), Teresa Hubbard (11), Juanita Simms (10).
Richmond Mayor: Doug McIntosh (50), Kelly Reeder (30).
Richmond City Council (Top three win seats): Helen Feuerborn (74).
Wellsville City Council (Top three win seats): Charles Rutledge (183), Dave Rogers (182), Kiel Lasswell (153).
Williamsburg City Council (Top three win seats): Ralph Stover Jr. (51), JR Harris (50), Thomas Taylor Sr. (42), Terra Geist (18), Shiela Worden (2).