Jan Mees won reelection to her fourth term on the Columbia Board of Education, and Jim Whitt held off challenger Sarah Dubbert to win his third term.
Mees said this was the hardest school board campaign she’s been a part of with five candidates running for two seats.
“I prepared just as if it were my first campaign,” Mees said. “I really, really, really wanted to know what it was that the people in Columbia wanted to know about so I researched many many things to be able to give good answers that I thought might reflect how I would serve on the board again.”
Mees raised $9,305 for her campaign, thousands more than any of her competitors. She saw the night’s results as an endorsement from voters on the current direction of the District.
“I think the community feels good about what the schools are doing in terms of our financial situation and the need for growth that we are experiencing,” she said.
After running unopposed three years ago, Whitt anxiously followed the close election with family and close friends at Flat Branch Pub on Tuesday night.
“This is not for the feint of heart,” said Annelle Whitt, Jim Whitt’s campaign manager and wife, after the final results came in.
“We’re very proud to get the public’s support, and now we’re going to go carry out the plans that we laid out,” Jim Whitt said.
Both Mees and Whitt were excited that the levy and bond issues also passed. Whitt said the newly approved funds will go towards increasing staff salaries and continuing facilities improvements around the District.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Whitt said.
Dubbert was upbeat with her close third place finish in her first run for public office. She says she ran because she wanted to reconnect the board with issues and voters.
“We’ve had a lot of the same sitting board members for a while, and it’s very easy to get out of touch,” Dubbert said.
Dubbert was proud of the dialogue she felt went on during the campaign about a variety of important issues.
“It was an opportunity to have some really intelligent dialogue not just about issues within the school board, not just about bonds and levies, but also about racial issues, socio-economic issues, issues that maybe are a little bit harder to decipher, to have that viewpoint heard, and if you’re not hearing it, you’re missing a stakeholder at the table,” she said.