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Winners say BOE votes sends 'very loud message'

May 11, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Three of the four newly elected Jefferson County Board of Education members said Wednesday their overwhelming victory in Tuesday's primary election was a "very loud message" from county residents that they were not happy with the operation of the school system and were ready for change.

"I've never seen an election like it," board candidate and former board member Pete Dougherty said of the vote spread.

Dougherty was the highest vote-getter with 4,208 votes, giving him a more than 3,000-vote edge over Board of Education President Lori Stilley, who received the most votes among the incumbents, according to complete, but unofficial returns.

After elections, candidates often can look at their strategy and determine where they could have campaigned more or did something different with their advertising, Dougherty said.

"In this race, I don't think you could have done anything to change the results," Dougherty said Wednesday afternoon.

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Stilley and incumbent board members Delores Milstead and Cheryl Huff could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

There were four open seats on the board, and the other three went to Mariland Dunn Lee, who finished with 3,971 votes; Scott Sudduth, who received 3,821 votes; and Gary Kable, who received 3,363 votes, according to returns.

Stilley finished the race with 1,003 votes, Huff received 992 votes and Milstead received 862 votes, according to returns.

The remaining candidates and their vote totals were: Ed "Pootie" Johnson, 1,168 votes; Sandy Collier, 1,028 votes; Susan Pellish, 462 votes; J.J. Cook, 461 votes; and Tim Hayden, 387 votes.

Kable, a former Jefferson County Commission member, said he received many calls Wednesday from people congratulating him on his win. Kable said he also received calls from people in local government and from local lawmakers, who want the new board members to come to Charleston, W.Va., to meet other legislators and members of the state School Building Authority.

The board of education race became a closely followed contest, and centered at times around issues such as funding for local schools.

During the campaigns, issues arose, including a $3.5 million cost overrun on the county's second high school near the Huntfield development, complaints that the public was having a difficult time getting information about the school system and that the school system had not met requirements for funding from the School Building Authority.

"I think the community sent a very loud message, and that message is we care about our schools and we want to be informed about our schools," Sudduth said Wednesday.

Sudduth said he hopes the energy from the election will convert into widespread community input into the schools as the new board gets down to business.

"That would be the true legacy of this campaign," Sudduth said.

The new board members take office July 1.

The terms for board of education members are four years except for Kable's seat, which is a two-year unexpired term.

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