Two incumbents, newcomer win Janesville School Board race
The top vote-getter in the Janesville School Board race Tuesday was a newcomer, while one of the three incumbents lost his seat.
Another newcomer who did not win, Diane Eyers, nevertheless had a strong showing.
The results were unusual. Incumbents on the school board rarely lose when they run for re-election.
Cathy Myers, who got the most votes and easily outdistanced the field, said she knocked on 1,300 doors, made many phone calls and visited town boards to introduce herself and listen to concerns.
“People are looking for that kind of proactive approach, I think, in local governing bodies,” Myers said.
Myers said she heard dissatisfaction from people who felt their concerns were not being listened to or did not like how the district has handled the development of an employee handbook.
“People believe in bargaining in good faith, I think, and having an honest discussion with other people about their work. They think it’s fair,” Myers said.
The school board had rejected calls from employee unions to bargain over handbook issues such as working conditions and benefits but recently began to “meet and confer” with the unions on those topics.
Incumbent Kristin Hesselbacher won a second three-year term.
“I don’t know how to read it,” Hesselbacher said of the strong showing by non-incumbents. “Cathy is an educator, so I think she probably has some good support in that area.”
Myers is a longtime English teacher at Honnonegah High School in northern Illinois.
Hesselbacher attributed her win to her support for public education.
“I say this all time, that I take into consideration what students need to succeed, and apparently the voters want to keep me on the board another three years to keep the focus on the students and their needs,” Hesselbacher said.
Incumbent Karl Dommershausen won the third and final seat, his second three-year term.
Dommershausen said he did not spend any money on the election, instead re-using old election signs.
“I think my track record meant a lot to them,” Dommershausen said of voters, noting he reinstated board listening sessions, led an effort to get private donations for the grade school track meet and spent a lot of time in schools.
Dommershausen came out in support of discussing handbook issues with the unions.
Incumbent Peter D. Severson lost after five years on the board.
Severson will continue to serve on the board through the April 9 meeting. The new board will be seated later this month.