Some unsolicited advice to candidates from an 18-year-old who showed up at school board headquarters

I haven’t failed to vote in an election since I was 18.

I registered as a Republican.

It was a different time back then. It was another party.

My first ballot was in the June 11, 1974 primary election. Houston Flournoy was my choice for governor. He beat Ed Reinecke.

Flournoy faced Jerry Brown in his first block run in the November 5, 1974 general election. By today’s standards, the campaign was boring and a mutual love affair.

Brown obtained 50.11% of the votes and Flournoy 47.25% of the votes. Brown succeeded Ronald Reagan as governor. Flournoy, by the way, conceded defeat the day after the election

My third election, March 4, 1975, was a bit more eventful.

It was the election for the Western Placer Unified School District Board of Trustees.

There were two seats up for grabs – one representing the former Lincoln Elementary School District boundaries and the other the former Thermalands School District area just south of Camp Far West Lake on the Bear River.

I was a little more invested when I voted in my third election.

The reason was simple. My name was on the ballot for the Lincoln seat.

My 19th birthday on Election Day was still 27 days away.

There were four other people on the ballot, including Dorothy Bickford, a highly respected incumbent for 20 years.

Nobody thought I could win. After all, I was 18 just 11 months from Lincoln High.

At the time of the count, 764 people had entrusted me with their vote. It was just about 300 more than the titular one. Another 200 votes were distributed between the other two candidates.

A month later, I was a 19-year-old sworn in as one of five people elected to oversee a 2,400-student district with one high school and four elementary students.

By the time 1976 rolled around, I was the target of a recall effort by a retired teacher who lived across from the high school campus and didn’t want to see Lincoln High’s athletic facilities upgraded using a jumpsuit donations and county recreation fees assessed. on new growth.

I had not only come up with the idea, convinced the other board members to allow it to continue, but I had also chaired the committee that organized the workforce, raised funds and obtained equipment donations.

It wasn’t at all on the level of what the Ripon Community Athletic Foundation has accomplished, but it was the same general idea.

Despite the retired teacher’s best efforts, she failed to obtain the necessary signatures to force a recall. I was unopposed two years later for re-election. And after 8 years as a director, I honored a promise I made which was to serve no more than two terms.

What I learned and experienced in those eight years eclipsed the impact of much of what I learned in three years of college.

California’s public school system — steeped in education jargon, complex and convoluted funding with often arcane state decrees — is an interesting cat in itself. But I also learned to interact with people.

People who didn’t share my values, but I needed to find common ground to move forward in securing the changes I felt were necessary.

People who were angry when interacting with school board members because of a mild or severe problem they were facing.

People who didn’t care what the state laws you were sworn to uphold said could or couldn’t be done and didn’t understand why you weren’t fondling fans of a revolution.

The education I received is priceless. It was also the only compensation as school board members at the time served without stipends.

That said, I do not pretend to be an expert in the conduct of an electoral campaign.

My campaign was based on four issues:

* Misrepresentation of growth and bonding capacity that the district had used in an unsuccessful attempt to pass a school bonding measure two years prior.

* The inability to research more affordable options for campus renovations and additions given that we were a high-tax, low-wealth district, which meant people were taxed near the top when the estimated value in the district at the time was below the state average. Not only did this impact operational funding since local tax dollars were essential prior to Proposition 13’s passage, but we lacked the bridging capacity to build a complete new core high school as claimed. the district.

* The district dismisses concerns about a drug problem at Lincoln High.

* Dubious – and later found to be illegal – use of students during school hours in a commercial class to address and prepare to send out pamphlets urging people to vote for school bonding.

Obviously, my concern over the questions didn’t come out of nowhere. The previous three years before racing underscores the fact that I may have had a slightly different experience during my high school years than most teenagers.

My campaign effort was simple. It was a solo effort

I spent less than $1,000 of my own money. I had no road signs.

There was an 11 x 14 “brochure” designed for mailing. I went door to door. If people answered the door, I hired them if they wanted to. Homes I didn’t go to in Lincoln and Sheridan – about 25% – I sent the brochure to them and rural residents.

One side of the brochure was what you might call a little tacky. I listed exactly how I would try to address the school’s needs. It was not in generalities. There were details and numbers that you could try to make out if you wanted to.

If I encountered anyone who disagreed with me or thought I was a successful candidate for the school board at the age of 18, I would listen politely and evenly. was trying to make my point.

I didn’t speak ill of my opponents unless, of course, to simply say that I believed the incumbent was out of touch and the board needed a fresh perspective was rude.

Respect is the bottom line.

Respect those who vote, whether they support you or oppose you.

Respect for opponents, no matter how diametrically opposed you are to their views,

Respect for your fellow elected directors.

Without respect, I seriously doubted that I would have been elected, that I would have been able to help change the course of Western Placer Unified, or that I could have got other administrators to listen and ultimately agree – in varying degrees – to change.

This column is the opinion of the editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at [email protected]