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Local school board races have unusual vacancies

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The boardroom table is set for a meeting
The boardroom table is set for a meeting

Three school districts don’t yet have enough candidates willing to fill open seats on their boards, and only one has enough interest for a contested race set this fall.

That’s exceedingly rare, local and state election officials said.

As of today, residents who live in the Center Grove school district are the only voters who will make a decision about who should serve on their school board, picking three at-large members out of four candidates. But in Clark-Pleasant, Franklin and Edinburgh school districts, no one has filed to fill all the seats that are up for election this fall.

County election board attorney Steve Huddleston can’t remember an election where no one filed to run for an open school board seat in nearly 40 years of working with election officials. Statewide, ballots rarely have empty positions in the fall general election, and most often that is only in areas with small populations, Indiana Secretary of State spokeswoman Valerie Kroeger said. Both had to look up the state law to find out what happens if no one files, since it happens so rarely.

“I don’t know I’ve ever seen a situation where there is a vacancy. The school administration is usually pretty proactive in getting some candidates to run,” Huddleston said.

School board members control millions in tax dollars each year, ranging from $9.5 million for Edinburgh to more than $70 million in Center Grove. They decide whether to hire new teachers, who the superintendent should be and what types of academic programs are offered to students. They control when the school borrows money to pay for renovations or to build a new school. Schools will receive about $72 million, or half, of all the property taxes paid in the county this year, as well as millions more provided by the state.

Multiple local school boards are making decisions on key issues for their schools. Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson has proposed building a $10 million addition to a school that local residents are trying to stop. Clark-Pleasant and Franklin schools continue to lose millions in tax dollars to tax caps, which has limited their ability to fund programs, repair aging buildings and replace buses, and both boards have open seats that no one is running for.

Three seats in Edinburgh are up for election, and all three currently have no candidates.

If no one files to run, the person who currently holds the seat is automatically retained for another term, Kroeger said. If that person no longer wishes to serve, he or she would have to resign. Then when a board has a vacancy because of a resignation, the remaining school board members appoint a replacement, she said.

The rest of the ballot this fall is looking equally thin.

None of the races for county offices are contested this fall. There are no contests for any township positions. Three judges and two state representatives are unopposed in November. Without contested school board races, Johnson County Clerk Sue Anne Misiniec already is expecting voter turnout for the fall election will be a dud.

That means the county will likely have fewer early voting days, like what was done for the primary, and the election board could consider reducing the number of vote centers to save tax dollars. The county spent about $35,000 to pay for poll workers to run early voting sites and more than 20 vote centers on Election Day.

“I want to serve those folks and not have to drive from Greenwood to Franklin to vote. But on the other hand, you’ve got to be logical and sensible. It is tax dollars, and can you justify keeping that open for that many hours when people don’t show up?” Misiniec said.

The county had a historically low turnout for the primary election in the spring, with just 9 percent of voters casting ballots. In that election, fewer than 10 races were contested and multiple positions that typically garner a lot of interest, such as commissioner, county council and sheriff, were not opposed. Having few contested county races in the fall is not uncommon, since few Democrats or third-party candidates have run in recent years, Misiniec said.

Right now, all county voters will have fewer than five contested races on the ballot this fall. In some parts of the county, such as Greenwood or Trafalgar, voters will only have one race to decide: the three-way race for their U.S. Representative that every county resident gets to vote on.

ON THE Ballot

Here’s a look at the current ballot as it stands:

p U.S. Representative

District 9

Republican Todd Young

Democrat Bill Bailey

Libertarian Mike Frey

p State Representative

District 47

Republican John Price

Democrat Michael Reddick

p State Representative District 48

Republican Woody Burton

p State Representative District 65

Republican Eric Koch

p State Representative District 93

Republican Dave Frizzell

Democrat Ryan Guillory

p State Senator District 41

Republican Greggory Walker

Democrat Andy Talarzyk

p Superior Court 2 Judge

Republican Cynthia Emkes

p Superior Court 3 Judge

Republican Lance Hamner

p Superior Court 4 Judge

Republican Marla Clark

p Prosecutor

Republican Brad Cooper

p Commissioner District 2

Republican Kevin Walls

p County Council District 1

Republican Pete Ketchum

p County Council District 2

Republican Jim Eckart

p County Council District 3

Republican Beth Boyce

p County Council District 4

Republican James Ison

p Sheriff

Republican Doug Cox

p Assessor

Republican Mark Alexander

p Auditor

Republican Pamela Burton

p Clerk

Republican Sue Anne Misiniec

p Recorder

Republican Jill Jackson

p Bargersville Town Council at-large (select two)

Republican Rowana Umbarger

Republican Jim Beck

p Edinburgh Town Council at-large (select two)

Republican Kami Ervin

Independent Jack Shepard

p New Whiteland Town Council Ward 2

Republican Scott Alspach

p New Whiteland Town Council Ward 5

Republican John Schilawski

p Blue River Township Board (select three)

Republican Andy Barker

Republican Gary Estes

Republican Larry Whitlock

p Blue River Township Trustee

Republican Ray Walton

p Clark Township Board (pick three)

Republican John Trisler

Republican Chuck Harlow

Republican Beth Sipek

p Clark Township Trustee

Republican Neil Trisler

p Franklin Township Board (pick three)

Republican David Harrison

Republican Thomas Wood

Republican David Bayless

p Franklin Township Trustee

Republican Lydia Wales

p Hensley Township Board (pick three)

Republican Dennis Brownfield

Republican Mary Lee Wilkerson

Republican William Meredith

p Hensley Township Trustee

Republican Beth Baird

p Needham Township Board (pick three)

Republican Ann Gordon

Republican Rawdon Staley

Republican Leslie S. Wood

p Needham Township Trustee

Republican Rita Lory

p Nineveh Township Board (pick three)

Republican Kevin Jackson

Republican Dian Ankney

Republican Dale Mitchell

p Nineveh Township Trustee

Republican Janet Renner

p Pleasant Township Board (pick three)

Republican John Asher

Republican Jerry Napier

Republican Thomas Whitaker

p Pleasant Township Trustee

Republican Mary Ann Powell

p Union Township Board (pick three)

Republican Norma Deer

Republican Jessica Legan

Republican Steve Miller

p Union Township Trustee

Republican Annette Barr

p White River Township Board (pick three)

Republican David Pollard

Republican Greg Rainbolt

Republican Margaret Young

p White River Township Trustee

Republican Mark Messick

p Center Grove school board at-large (pick three)

Elisa Horne

Scott Alexander

Jack Russell

Adam Norman

p Greenwood school board at-large (pick two)

Nick Schwab

Mike Metzger

p Greenwood school board District 2

Jack Napier

p Clark-Pleasant school board Pleasant Township

John Venter

p Clark-Pleasant school board Clark Township (pick two)

Abby Beatrice Dunn


p Franklin school board Union Township

Danny Vaught

p Franklin school board Needham Township


p Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson school board

Judy Misiniec

p Edinburgh school board Blue River Township

(pick two)



p Edinburgh school board at-large


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