As four seats come up for election to Seaside School District’s board of directors, six candidates have stepped forward to fill those roles. Incumbents Hugh Stelson and Brian Taylor, along with newcomers Michelle Wunderlich, Andrea “AJ” Wahl, Karen Custer and Lori Lum filed paperwork with the Clatsop County Board of Elections as candidates for the May 16 special district election. The filing period ended Thursday.
“Right now there is an opening in each of the three communities, one in Gearhart, one in Seaside, one in Cannon Beach and one at-large,” Superintendent Sheila Roley said last week.
Two races are contested. In Seaside’s Zone 6, Custer challenges Stelson, who joined the board in 2013.
In Gearhart’s Zone 3, Wahl and Lum compete.
After district consolidation in 1967, seats were divided with two each to Cannon Beach, Seaside and Gearhart. The seventh member of the board serves at-large and may live anywhere within the district. Both Gearhart incumbent Lynn Ulbricht and at-large incumbent Tom Maltman are stepping down from the board.
Maltman said he was retiring after 16 years on the board to pursue new directions. “The big goal was getting the relocation situated and the bond passed,” Maltman said. “That’s done, so I think it’s time to pass it on to fresher individuals with a little more energy than I might have.”
Stelson, the incumbent in Seaside’s Zone 6, is a retired family physician. He brings experience on the school board and as a member of the city’s improvement commission.
“I enjoy it,” Hugh Stelson said of serving on the school board. “I have learned a lot about schools in general, and our schools and staff in particular. We do a lot with what we have. I’d like to see the district through the construction, the charter school transition and continuing evolution of improving teaching and outcomes using data and individual connections to students and families. I worry about funding, PERS (Public Employees Retirement System), and the current federal approach to public education, but expect that those issues are out of my hands.”
Taylor, a Cannon Beach resident, runs unopposed in Zone 1. Taylor is a Seaside High School graduate and the production manager of Bruce’s Candy Kitchen. He was elected to the board of directors in 2013 and is now seeking his second term.
“It’s been great, eye-opening,” Taylor said of service on the board.
“We’ve got a really good board that works well together. Everybody has a different point of view, but the one thing we all have in common is we’re all here for the kids.”
Taylor said his experience as owner and production manager at Bruce’s Candy Kitchen provided him leadership skills. “If I have a group of people I’m in charge of for managing, I’m able to do that easier,” Taylor said. “There are certain steps you have to take. Everybody’s responsible to make the pieces fit,” Taylor said. “No one person can do everything. Every person puts a piece in. I couldn’t make that candy myself. There’s just not enough hours in the day. Delegate, work with others and realize every person is important and a piece of the puzzle.”
Wunderlich, who describes herself as “coffee slinger” at Seaside Coffee, is a Seaside High School graduate with an undergraduate degree from Portland State University.
“I feel I am a product of Seaside,” Wunderlich said. “I feel like the district has done a great job, and what it comes down to is the kids. It’s a great time to be the community, just coming off the heels of basketball, we’re all superexcited, with the new school — I guess it’s time.
“I have an open mind and have kind of made a career out of listening to people here,” Wunderlich added. “I feel like I have a lot of unique perspectives brought to me. Then of course I have my own perspective. And I’m a good listener, I can listen to what people have to say, but at the end of the day, do what I think is right.”
Wahl, a four-year Gearhart resident, has a law degree and is an active member of the bar. This is the first election bid for Wahl, who worked on political campaigns in Wisconsin. “I’ve always been in a support role,” Wahl said Thursday. “This is exciting and new.”
She said she seeks opportunities and support for students.
“As a mom of two little ones, I’m really vested for that,” Wahl said. “I want to make sure that the school system they’re entering into provides the resources not just for them, but also for all the other kids. I think this is such an amazing community. I want to bring everything I can to make sure the school system is strong for them.”
Custer, a retired teacher with 20 years experience, has a bachelor of science degree in education. She was elected secretary of the Clatsop County GOP and precinct committee person. Custer taught and raised her children in Seaside. She decided to run after a suggestion from her eldest son who serves on the Jewell School Board.
“I know about the students, and I know the teachers and the problems they have meeting students’ needs — or trying to meet those needs,” Custer said. “I know some of the money problems that come up. I taught Title I for most of my last 10 years.”
Custer said if elected, she would bring a “conservative viewpoint” to the board. “To have a healthy school board, to have a healthy government, you need all sides,” she said. “I would bring that voice.”
Lum, a 10-year Gearhart resident and general manager at Lum’s Auto Center, said she has been involved with the schools as part of “Vote Yes For Our Local Schools,” the effort to pass a bond for a new high school campus bond, which succeeded in November.
“I was the co-chair of the campaign committee,” Lum said. “Currently, I’m the co-president of Broadway Middle School. I feel education is superimportant for our kids and I want to give them the best educational opportunities to make them better people.”