Milton School Board newcomer Rick Mullen, who with incumbent Mike Pierce won the two open school board seats Tuesday, says he’s most excited about helping the district move forward with referendum projects.

Mullen, Pierce, Rick Ehle and Harvey Smith faced off in the school board race, which was arguably the second-most anticipated race in Milton after the $59.9 million referendum. The referendum passed Tuesday with about 53 percent of voters in favor and 47 percent against.

In the school board race, Mullen was the top vote-getter, receiving 36 percent of the vote in his first try at running for school board.

Pierce was appointed to the board in 2018 after Betsy Lubke resigned. He previously held a school board seat for 18 years from 1994 to 2012.

Mullen is a pharmacist at Mercyhealth Milton Pharmacy, and Pierce is a retired farmer.

Ehle and Smith both have made unsuccessful runs for school board in the past.

Two seats were up for grabs after board member Don Vruwink chose not to seek re-election so he could concentrate on his work in the state Assembly.

Mullen said Tuesday he was more excited about the passage of the district’s $59.9 million referendum than he was about his own win.

Helping the district move forward with referendum projects is one of Mullen’s top goals.

The community appeared to be divided over the referendum and a recent investigation into school board members’ and district administrators’ handling of district funds and open records laws.

Mullen believes the referendum’s approval is a step in the right direction for the community, and he hopes his leadership can bring positivity to the district.

Each of the four candidates voiced support for the referendum while campaigning.

Mullen promised residents he “won’t let them down.”

The Gazette was unable to reach Pierce by press time.

Pierce told The Gazette in March he would continue to do his part to ease tension on the school board. He anticipated most of the work he would do in his next term would revolve around the referendum’s results.

Mullen received 3,818 votes, 816 more than Pierce. Rick Ehle was the third-highest vote-getter with 2,091 votes, and Smith got 1,655 votes.