Voters Chose New Leadership for WG
Voters overwhelmingly chose two new candidates on Nov. 5 to serve on the West Geauga Schools Board of Education over two veterans who were running for re-election.
Dr. Thomas Phelps, an established pediatrician in the community, but a newcomer to politics, garnered 3,131 votes or 37.37 percent of the total, along with realtor Dan Thoreson who received 2,305 votes or 27.51 percent of the total, according to final unofficial results of the Geauga County Board of Elections.
Thoreson is a relative newcomer to the community, but he previously served as a councilman in Burton.
The two other candidates were incumbents Bill Beers, a senior systems engineer, with 1,628 votes or 19.43 percent of the total, and Sally Gillmore, a retired library media specialist, with 1,314 votes or 15.68 percent of the total.
Beers has served six years on the board and is the current board president. Gillmore has served on the board for 32 years.
“The community is passionate about its school,” Thoreson said. “They want to be heard and want to have input in decisions. They felt they didn’t have a chance.”
Thoreson said he was surprised Bill Beers lost his seat on the board.
“Beers is a nice guy and well respected,” he said. “He was fiscally responsible but, people grew dissatisfied and he lost favor when he wouldn’t answer questions and they felt he wasn’t listening to their concerns.”
Thoreson said it was West Geauga Schools’ open enrollment policy that attracted him to the community.
In 2007, he enrolled his daughter in the West Geauga Middle School through open enrollment from the Berkshire school district.
“Due to failed levies there, I saw them lose good teachers,” he said. “When we found a house we liked and could afford in the West Geauga school district, we moved here.”
As a realtor, Thoreson said he understands the connection between having strong schools and property values.
Phelps said the controversy over having statewide open enrollment may have been the tipping point for voters.
“I’d like to say that I ran a savvy campaign. But, the issue of open enrollment caught people off guard,” he said. “They weren’t aware that students were coming in from more urbanized areas with potential issues and ramifications that weren’t being discussed. More openness is needed.”
Phelps said he will have to schedule his time more carefully once he joins the board in January.
“I think I can offer a lot to the board in terms of health and safety,” he said. “I don’t know much about transportation and buses, but I’m excited to take part on the board.”
He also hopes to foster more of a team approach to the board than appears to be the case now.
“We need to work together,” he said.
When contacted by phone, Gillmore was out of town and unavailable for comment.
Beers said he planned to attend school board meetings after his term expires at the end of the year.
He also said he plans to be available to help answer any questions Phelps and Thoreson may have when they take office.
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