Hagemiester, Morris-Hardeman, Weixelman win school board election

Kris Long, Print Editor-in-Chief

In an unofficial tally, the USD 383 school board elections ended with two liberals and one conservative expected to sit on the board starting in January. The top three candidates were the incumbent Karla Hagemeister, conservative member of the “six-pack” Christine Weixelman and liberal Jayme Morris-Hardeman. 

Hagemeister finished top with 4,543 votes, Weixelman second with 4,356 and Jayme Morris-Hardeman third with 4,339. Teresa Parks, Betty Mattingly-Ebert and Steven Ruzzin did not make the cut, gaining 4,197, 4,108 and 3,751 votes respectively. 

“I am relieved and reassured that the hard decisions I’ve had to make this past year, in the past four years but especially in this last year, that the community understands,” Hagemiester said. “Even though they’ve been hard decisions I’ve made them from a place of goodwill and trying to balance out the needs of the community or safety, education and all the other needs across the board.”

The election night started off well for the Democratically endorsed candidates. Advanced voting showed all three in the lead by a 300 vote margin — Parks trailing the liberals with 1,566 and Weixelman leading the conservatives with 1,204, a significant lead for elections that are usually decided by less than 100 votes. That gap stayed largely the same after the first 24 precincts reported with Parks at 3,203 and Weixelman at 2,908, but final reporting jumped Weixelman up to third leading Parks by 16 votes and then to second-leading Morris-Hardeman by 17. 

These results do not reflect the primaries, which leaned more conservative, or what is expected of a highly partisan campaign after a major national election. In August, Weixelman took first with Mattingly-Ebert in second, Morris-Hardeman and Hagemiester placed third and fourth, while Ruzzin and Parks took fifth and sixth. The City Commission also leaned more conservative with Democrat Usha Reddi taking first and Republicans Wynn Butler and John Matta taking second and third. 

“I’ve been nervous the entire season,” Hagemiester said. “I knew that our COVID response elicited a lot of emotion from people. And that emotion that will not always bring forth the best reasoning and that even though that emotion is understandable… It’s been challenging and so I’ve never taken it for granted that I would have a seat again.”

Turnout was unusually high for a local election at 26.3% of registered voters participating. 

“I’m glad to see that I think that people got riled up on both sides of the aisle, no matter what your political party was,” Morris-Hardeman said. “I think people were riled up about these issues, to get out and vote, which is amazing. I wish the voter turnout was always significantly higher in these local elections. I will always be a proponent for voting, and particularly because these are the things that impact your life every day, and we want to be sure that people pay attention to that and engage.”

While Hagemiester retains her seat, Weixelman and Morris-Hardeman replace two reliably liberal votes on the board — Katrine Lewison and Jurdene Coleman. This shift will likely make Curt Herman the swing vote on partisan issues, with Kristen Brighton, Jayme Morris-Hardeman and Hagemiester making up the solidly liberal vote and Darell Edie, Brandy Santos and Weixelman likely to vote conservative.