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Primary election to decide School Board and partisan races

By Staff | May 9, 2014

Voters will head to the polls Tuesday, May 13 to determine which names will be on the ballot in November for both the Democrat and Republican parties in local races.

In Jefferson County, there are two County Commission seats up for grabs. The Kabletown seat currently held by Patsy Noland has no one challenging the incumbent. The Harpers Ferry seat, currently held by Lyn Widmyer, has Republicans Eric Bell and Peter Onoszko facing off on that party’s ballot; while Democrat challenger Ronda Lehman runs unopposed on the Democratic ballot.

Delegate for the the 67th District, that encompasses Shepherdstown, has incumbent Stephen Skinner unopposed on the Democratic ticket while two Republican hopefuls, Patricia Rucker and W. Matthew Harris vying against each other for the Republican spot on November’s ticket.

County Sheriff Pete Dougherty is seeking to retain his seat and faces no in-party competition in the primary election. There are two Republican candidates, Brian Parris, Sr. and Steven Sowers, who are seeking the Republican votes.

While each of these vote-getters are working toward retaining a spot on the November ballot, candidates for Jefferson County’s Board of Education will be official when ballots are counted at the end of the day May 13.

Six individuals appear on the ballot. Looking to hold on to their seats are incumbents Scott Sudduth and Mariland Dunn Lee.

Sudduth has stated, “I am deeply committed to providing a quality public education for all our children. As a parent, I’m running for re-election because our children are West Virginia’s greatest asset. Our public education system must be one of our community’s highest priorities.”

He continued by saying, “As a member of the Board, one of my most important responsibilities is to ensure that we are good stewards of the significant financial support we receive from local tax payers.” Sudduth wants to engage the public and increase transparency with the Board’s budget process and setting spending priorities.

Lee, who was a teacher in the county for 32 years, has served two terms on the Board and is seeking to continue. Lee says she has a vested interest in the system and brings experience to the board.

Laurie Ogden, a parent of four who have and continue through the local school system, says that she hopes to bring a parent perspective to the board.

“I am involved in all levels of our education system and I see firsthand what happens on a daily basis,” said Ogden. She looks forward to working as a team with fellow board members to listen to the concerns of any and all members of the school community from administrators to bus drivers to students.

Alan Sturm, who previously served two terms on the Board, is seeking to step back into the role. Having not run in the last election cycle due to family issues, Sturm said that there are many reasons he wants to once again be a part of the board.

“First, with the resources available, both financial and cultural, there is no reason that I can see why Jefferson is not the premier school system in the state, but it isn’t. Instruction is the key everything else that happens in a school system. We must continue to recruit and retain the highly qualified teachers. We need to develop a county wide plan to assure that every school in the county meets the state established target scores. I personally believe that too much emphasis is placed on testing, but that is the name of the game currently and we must play it well,” he said.

He followed up by saying, “Schools exist for only one purpose, to provide the best possible education for the students who attend. “The problems facing Jefferson County Schools should not be allowed to distract from that reason. Academics and excellent instruction must remain the first priority. The public has the right to demand the best from our schools, and the system must remain accountable.”

Kathy Skinner is also seeking a seat. Skinner also brings to the table a parent perspective as well as that of a local business owner. She has indicated that her experience in budgeting as well as parenting, are things that will be of great benefit to the local school board.

Also on the ballot is Theresa Rinehart, a resident of Charles Town, from the Kabletown District.

Early voting has been ongoing at the Jefferson County Courthouse and continues through Saturday, May 10. Hours for the final Saturday of early voting are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The voting precincts will open Tuesday morning at 6:30 a.m. and run through 7:30 p.m.