By Ross Markman
That's the story of the May 7 election for the Havre Public Schools Board of Trustees. And, according to district Superintendent Kirk Miller, the story this year has a few extra chapters.
"It just depends on the times. In the past few years, we haven't had that number of candidates in Havre," he said. "I just think maybe there's more folks interested in what's happening in our schools. I certainly welcome that."
In last year's election, Miller said, only two people ran and both were incumbents. No election was held since no one filed to challenge.
This year, however, incumbents Denise Thompson and Teresa Miller encounter four opponents Joe Marino, Cheryl Carlson, Kevann Elletson and Gus Sharp.
"You're never assured you're going to win," said Miller, a 50-year-old sales associate at Herberger's. "There's some real qualified people running."
A board member for six years, Miller said one of the reasons she's seeking a third term is to continue the implementation of the district restructuring.
"I wanted to see that through the next couple years to make sure it was the right thing to do," she said. "I know that's something anybody can do, but I kind of wanted to do it."
Thompson, the other incumbent, was unavailable for comment.
Elletson said she brings to the table the experience of being the parent of two elementary-age kids.
"The other thing I feel qualifies me is I know that through my job and my civic involvement, I know and speak to a lot of people. I can bring their feedback to the board."
Elletson, a marketing representative for Hill County Electric Cooperative and Triangle Telephone Cooperative, said that if elected, she'll focus her attentions on "continuing the district's positive momentum" and reducing class sizes.
Elletson isn't the only Hill County Electric employee on the ballot. Cheryl Carlson, administrative assistant to the utility company's general manager, is running.
"I'm not going to spend funds campaigning," the married mother of four said.
Carlson has several reasons for running, she said, but the foremost is her son, a special-needs student at Lincoln-McKinley Primary School.
"I think the school board should be made up of people who can identify with every area of the school," she said. "I have never seen anyone on the board here who has a special needs child."
A 12-year Havre resident, Carlson said, she's interested in the district finances and would also like to see a reduction in class sizes.
"A lot of parents are my children's coaches or Boy Scout leaders, things I can't do," she said. "This is one of the ways I can do a good job."
Marino, a 45-year-old Havre podiatrist, said he's likewise interested in the financial aspect of Havre Public Schools. A former fire commissioner in New Jersey and one-time owner of a steel fabrication corporation, now is a good time for him to run, he said.
"I do have time to devote to it, and I want to help," he said. "I think I can bring pretty good public organizational skills."
With his son Daniel a seventh-grader at Havre Middle School, Marino said he has a vested interest in district affairs.
"I'm kind of a task master. I'm not sure the teachers would love me," he said.
In addition to maintaining district funding, Marino said he'd like to see the multi-grade cooperative education program expanded.
"I think they're doing it to a limited extent," he said. "If they're not doing it, I think they need to start it up again."
Challenger Gus Sharp was unavailable for comment. Incumbent Brian Morse, who has decided not to run for a third term on the board, was also unavailable.
"(Morse's) commitment as a trustee is very great," Miller said. "I'd like to express my gratitude on behalf of his commitment to public education in Havre."