By John L. Braese
For a mundane election that usually draws 30 percent voter turnout, candidates for the Treasure Valley Community College board seats last week created last-second drama for ballot spots.
A crowd gathered at the Malheur County Courthouse right up until 5 p.m. closing time Thursday, planning out who should run against whom.
In actions that reminded some of 1930s Chicago style politics, candidates swapped positions and names to boost their chances and weaken opponents.
When the clock ticked to 5 and filings were cut off, voters were left with an unusual number of contested races.
The majority of the changes took place in the TVCC filings. The filing day opened with incumbents Darlene McConnell and Roger Findley appearing to be unopposed to retain their seats.
Findley originally filed to keep his seat in position 6 but switched to position 4. That seat was held by McConnell, but she switched to run for Findley’s old seat.
As the clock ticked down, incumbent Jed Myers gave up his seat in position 1 to run against Findley in what was a well-orchestrated move.
“I had heard Roger wanted to run against me,” McConnell said. “Roger had a plan so I had a plan. Jed (Myers) had talked to me before and wanted to run against Roger.”
McConnell said she didn’t like the controversy and last-minute switching.
“I just want to provide a service to the community college,” she said.
Findley acknowledged the switching, stating the entire deal was a “Keystone Cops episode.”
“I uncovered a plot about two weeks ago,” Findley said. “The administration at the college wants me off the board and came up with a plan to do that. I withdrew from my original position to keep them guessing.”
In a blog written by Findley’s wife, Jean, she accused administrators of orchestrating the election because “they want him off for blowing the whistle and exposing all manner of college problems and dishonesty, asking too many embarrassing questions and pointing out numerous cases of on-going mismanagement at the college including fall enrollment numbers and serious budget problems.”
Myers had originally been appointed to the position 1 seat, but changed to run against Findley at 4:55 p.m.
Findley said he had hoped to run against McConnell.
“I did file on the final day I was allowed to do so,” Myers explained. “I filed to help the board. I am not running against Roger. I am running because that was an open position at the time. There are certain things I am total agreement with him about, but I feel I can make changes that are needed by building a consensus.”
Myers acknowledged past practices at the college have created problems, but maintains positives at the institution have been overlooked also.
“I think I am in a better position to carry forward the positives at the college than my opponent,” said Myers.
The position vacated by Myers now has two contenders, both newcomers. John Hall will face Cydney Cooke.In the position 5 slot, Karen Nunn, originally appointed to the seat, chose not to seek re-election. Only one person filed for that seat -- Stephen Crow.
The other crowded field appears in the seats for the Vale School Board.
With Susan Gregory against reelection in position 2, both Jessica Kulm and Christine Phillips filed their names early in the day. As the clock wound down towards 5 p.m., Jeff Mendiola also joined the fray.
Incumbent Topper Schlupe will face Randy Seals for position 4 and in position 5 incumbent David Wenger is being challenged by Pamela Post.
In Nyssa, incumbent board members Torie Ramirez, Dennis Savage and Dave Bunker filed for re-election and face no opposition.
The Annex school board will remain the same as Sally Baker, Joe White and Sharona Olsen all are back on the ballot.
The small school district of McDermitt will see a race as Jeanette Yturriondobetia faces Kimberly Wharton for position 5. Steve Maher looks to return unopposed and position 1 remains vacant.