Local government

Some incumbents bow out as filing deadline passes for May 16 local district election

The Ontario School Board and the Treasure Valley Community College Board will lose longtime board members who decided against seeking new terms in the May 16 election. 

The political races for school boards and other special district boards were settled with the filing deadline on Thursday, March 16. Those elected in May will take office July 1. 

Four of the 68 slots on the ballot did not draw a candidate. 

No incumbents filed for re-election for seats on the Ontario School Board and three newcomers are running unopposed. Craig Geddes, a former Malheur County department director now with the Oregon Health Authority, did not file for re-election. Geddes, who has been on the board since 2020, couldn’t be reached for comment. 

His seat is expected to be filled Bret Uptmor, a former Grant School District superintendent in John Day, who is running uncontested for a four-year term. 

Eddie Melendrez, an Ontario city councilor, did not file for another two-year term. Antonio, “AJ” Sunseri, an employee of the Argus Observer, is running uncontested for the seat. Melendrez declined to comment on why he did not seek re-election but said he wished his fellow board members and the Ontario School District well.

Eric Evans, Malheur County planning director, who served on the board for six years, said he wanted to concentrate on his two kids, who are students at Ontario High School. 

“I have a lot going on,” Evans said. “And I never really intended to stay on the board forever. 

“So this is the right time to call it good.” He said he did his best to serve the district’s constituents. 

Mike Blackaby, an Ontario insurance company owner, is running unopposed for Evans’ seat. He served on the school board from 2011 until resigning in 2020 in a dispute with other board members over internal investigations. 

The Nyssa School Board will have one contested seat as Roberto Escobedo, a Nyssa city councilor looks to unseat Jeremy Peterson for a four-year term. Meanwhile, incumbents Maribel Ramirez and Don Ballou will both run unopposed for another four-year term. Escobedo said he jumped into the race in part because of the state’s ongoing investigation of Nyssa’s Migrant Education Program. Last year the Oregon Department of Education found that 14 district employees, including a district administrator, had families improperly enrolled. He said he wants to help prevent something like the migrant program scandal from happening again. Additionally, Escobedo said he would like to see the district do more for students with anxiety, mental health, behavioral problems and special needs.

In Vale, incumbents Darlene McConnell and Michael McGourty will run uncontested for another four years on the Vale School Board. 

Annex School Board incumbents Kenneth Parker and Todd Johnson did not file for additional four-year terms. However, Melanie Roukema filed to run uncontested for Johnson’s seat and no candidate filed to replace Parker. 

In Adrian, incumbents Eddie Kinkade and Bobby Davis filed for re-election to a four-year term. Misty Yost filed to challenge Davis for his seat. 

Harper Charter School Board incumbent Garrett Bentz will seek another term, but fellow incumbent Gary Johnson did not file ahead of the deadline. Karly Bentz will look to unseat Juntura School Board incumbent Emilee McKay while Ethan Bentz will run unopposed for another term. 

McDermitt School Board incumbent Tammy Wilkinson filed for another term. However, the other seat remains vacant. Incumbents Bryan Grenke and Mikal Leqeuerica on the Arock School Board each filed to run unopposed for their four-year terms. 

Mike Quintero did not file for another term on the Jordan Valley School Board. However, Rick Hawker filed and will run for the seat unopposed. Meanwhile, incumbent Zack Dufurrena will seek another four years and face no challengers. 

Incumbents Betty Carter and Stephen Crow re-filed for their seats on the Treasure Valley Community College Board but longtime board members Cheryl Cruson and Mark Wettstein are not running again. Lindsay Norman filed for Cruson’s slot while Antonio ‘AJ’ Sunseri and Torie Ramirez has filed for Wettstein’s position on the board. 

Wettstein departs after serving for 12 years on the board. 

“I have other interests and other things and projects that I am working on,” said Wettstein. 

Wettstein felt it was “probably time to let someone get on there.” Wettstein said he is leaving the board with a positive attitude. However, he said his departure was prompted in part is disagreement with state mandates requiring the college to implement a new equity, inclusion and diversity committee. He said that now there area such committees for students and the faculty. 

“I have just always had a problem with those because I feel the college has always included everybody. We are diverse. We are probably close to 40% Hispanic. We let everyone in and try to treat everyone the same,” said Wettstein. 

He said “equity isn’t equality.” 

“When you get to start putting people at the top for the sake of equity that’s not right. If they can’t get there on performance, that is just wrong,” said Wettstein. 

“I get it because the college gets about a third or more of its funding from the state and the state mandates this stuff. They mandate you establish these committees. To me it is just indoctrination and its wrong ideologically and I wasn’t going to do it anymore,” said Wettstein. 

Cruson, who has served on the board for 14 years, said it is time to “get some new blood in there.” 

“I will slide over and work on the (Treasure Valley Community College) foundation board. TVCC is still my passion, it not like I am going far away,” she said. 

Cruson said she also wants to spend more time with family. 

Other district seats 

In other districts, incumbents stepped aside and only a single candidate filed. That included: 

•Malheur Education Service District: incumbents Les Linegar and Jill Conant are unopposed for another term, incumbents David Westerberg and Cheri Hung did not seek re-election, and Amy McGourty and Newell George Cleaver are unopposed for their seats.There is little change with a host of other local boards as incumbents refiled for positions and face no opponents. The boards and incumbents running include:

•Adrian Rural Fire Board – Corey Osborn, Fred Bierig and George Martin. 

•Annex Rural Fire Board – Jr Hendrickson and Todd Johnson filed for the May election.

•Nyssa Rural Fire Board –Jon Stam, Michael D. McClain and Anthony J Frost 

•Ontario Rural Fire District Board, Joseph R Davis and incumbent Dan Tschida have filed for the May primary. Incumbent Larry J White did not file. 

On the Vale Rural Fire Board, incumbents Lonnie Justus and Carl Judy, filed. Incumbent Michael Recla did not file for the May election and that slot on the Vale Rural Fire Board remains vacant. 

Recla did not file for the May election and that slot on the Vale Rural Fire Board remains vacant

For the Hilltop Memorial Cemetery Board, two positions were open for the May election. 

Incumbents Kenneth Bittick and Kathy Pratt filed. Roberto Escobedo filed for one of the two open positions. 

Jean Brown filed for an open position on the Jordan Valley Cemetery Board. Incumbent Ellen Reed did not file. 

Incumbents running uncontested for special districts and local boards included: 

Dell-Brogan Cemetery Board: Terrie Maag. 

Fairview Cemetery Board: John D. Woods. 

Ironside Cemetery Board: Tony Burris. 

Owyhee Cemetery Board: Julie Bennett. 

Valley View Cemetery Board: Kris VanLith 

Nyssa Rural Road District #2: Don W. Sappe, David Robbins. Ontario Rural Road District #3: Gary R. Davis. 

Juntura Rural Road District #4: Samuel Fitzpatrick, Nathan Joyce and Mark L Joyce. 

Ironside Rural Road District #5: Steve Clark.

Malheur Memorial Health Board: Larry Wilson, Ruston R. Munk. Pioneer Nursing Home Board: Karlene Keller, Krystal Stewart Kelso and Katherine Judy.

Ontario Library Board: Siri Jackman, Randall Kirby and Tricia J. Maldonado. 

Ontario Recreation Board: Kendra Cleaver, Chad Hartley

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