Leechburg Area School Board race attracts almost 1,000 write-in votes
With four candidates on the ballot for four open seats, the Leechburg Area School Board race seemed a formality.
Until almost 1,000 write-in votes shook the landscape.
Elected to the board on Tuesday, based on unofficial results, were current President Jean Stull, former members Kathryn Vargo and Terri Smith, and newcomer Megan Hamm.
Ballot candidates Stull, Vargo and Smith bring a combined 12 years of board experience to the table.
Hamm, who won the final seat in a narrowly contested write-in campaign, is trying her hand in elective office for the first time.
“I think a lot of people voted for me as a write-in because I don't come into it with any hidden agendas,” she said. “I just wanted to come in with fresh eyes and help build our students' future.”
Hamm garnered 471 votes to edge fellow write-in candidate and current board member Jeremy Smail.
Smail came 62 votes shy of retaining the seat he was appointed to in September following then-president Terry Knepshield's resignation.
Both Smail and Hamm garnered more votes than ballot candidate Chuck Pascal, who served on the board from 1987 to 2003.
Pascal decided to run with Vargo and Smith earlier this year when Stull was the only candidate on the ballot. He said he feared for the future of the board should residents with a handful of write-in votes be elected.
“You never know what kind of crazy outcome those types of elections can have,” he said. “I didn't want the school district to suffer because of a lack of candidates.”
Once he saw the “caliber of the people running write-in campaigns,” Pascal said he began asking people to refrain from voting for him.
“I was willing to do it if no one else was,” he said, “but I don't have the time or effort to give the district what it deserves.”
Pascal received 385 votes.
Stull decisively earned her seat with 815 votes. That's 230 more than second-place Vargo and 278 more than Smith.
Neither Smith nor Vargo could be reached for comment.
Stull believes a significant portion of voters chose her based on her board experience and reputation as a Leechburg businesswoman. The mother of two works as an accountant on Market Street.
“I think people see me as an honest person and know that I try do to what is right,” she said. “That, and my name appeared first on the ballot.”
Since Stull took over as president, the board has approved new contracts for the district's teachers and cafeteria staff. The negotiating experience might prove useful this month when the board works to install a new superintendent.
“That's the top order of business right now,” Stull said. “That decision has such a drastic impact on the community, and I'm glad to be one of the people that helps make it.”
Write-ins affect other races
The Avonmore mayoral race on Tuesday was wide open with no candidates on the ballot.
The position went to Barbara Desimore, who received 94 votes. Ludwig Sharek was her closest opponent with 55.
Write-in candidates also filled two of the borough's three open council seats.
Raymond Bussard earned 90 write-in votes, which was matched by the only ballot candidate, Thomas Bellotti.
Gary Skovenski won the final seat with 82 votes. Runner-up Cheryl Smith fell six votes short.
In North Apollo, three residents were elected to council from an empty ballot.
Laura Ford and Deborah Stankus ran away with the election with 109 and 107 votes, respectively. The third seat was filled by Eugene Burns, who earned 25.
Democrat Edward Artman was elected as mayor in an unopposed race.
Braden Ashe can be reached at 724-226-4673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- West Deer burglary suspect arrested
- Mia Z voices no regrets after failing to advance on NBC show
- Kiski Area students reach out to community for Global Youth Service Day
- Fawn man accused in assault sentenced to probation
- Retired New Kensington attorney Robert McVey spent life helping people
- Bridge replacement projects set to start in Fawn, O’Hara
- Arnold family back home after gas leak
- New Ken-Arnold School Board appears to have violated Sunshine Law
- Leaking gas prompts major line replacement in Arnold
- Route 819 in Bell Township reopened after fatal car accident
- Traffic to tighten with closure of Freeport Road lane for crossing Hulton Bridge