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Washington Voices

Board seats on ballot

Thu., July 2, 2009

Freeman, Liberty have open and contested seats in November election

The Liberty and Freeman School Districts will each have contested and uncontested races for school board members on the November ballot.

In Freeman, John Zingg, Allen Crist and Hal Ophus have filed for the empty seat created with the resignation of Vicki Sellers. Incumbents Chad Goldsmith and Diane Woodman are running for re-election unopposed. In Liberty incumbent Ron Cockle has drawn one opponent, Chad Cornmesser, while incumbents Marci Green and Grant Collins went unchallenged.

Zingg, 71, has no children, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting involved in the district. He was on the bond committee and served on the construction committee after the bond was passed. “I’ve continued to attend almost all the school board meetings,” he said. “I just greatly, greatly respect the entire school board. They get along so well and things move in a positive direction.”

Zingg believes that if he’s elected it would maintain the continuity of the board since he’s been the most involved. “I want to see, fervently, this thing continue the way it’s going,” he said. “Issues are examined and evaluated from all corners thoroughly. They’ve always been open to outside input.”

The board originally called for applicants so they could appoint someone to fill the rest of the Sellers’ term, but when so many people expressed interest they decided to leave it vacant until the election, Zingg said.

Crist, 37, is a Freeman graduate who moved back to the area from Liberty Lake two years ago. His three children attend school in the district.

“I feel a need to get more involved,” he said. “Chad (Goldsmith) came and approached me about (running). Before that I hadn’t really thought about it.”

Crist said he’d like to see what he can do as the district moves into its construction projects. “I helped some with the school bond,” he said. “I’m really excited to have a new school, especially for my kids.”

He is pleased with the direction of the district and hopes to keep things moving. “I think it’s going in a pretty good direction,” he said. “Freeman has always been a special place.”

He was surprised to find himself competing with two other people for the empty seat. “A lot of times it’s lucky to have one running for it,” he said. “It’s a little more than I expected.”

Ophus, 45, was attracted to the empty position in part because his wife works as a teacher in the high school. He also believes his 28 years of experience in the construction industry could be useful as the district proceeds with two major construction projects.

“I’ve built 12 schools,” he said. “I think my knowledge of that would help in the decision-making.”

He’s a supporter of the projects but wants to make sure the money is well spent.

“It’s a very well-needed project,” he said. “The kids have to be first.”

In the Liberty School District, incumbent Ron Cockle is finishing his first elected term on the board. He decided to run again because “I felt that I was doing some good with the school district and for the kids.”

Cockle, 43, originally ran for the board because he wanted to be involved with the schools as his children got older.

“If I didn’t volunteer my time as a school board member, I didn’t feel I had a whole lot of room to complain about things not getting done.”

He points with pride to several accomplishments made during the last few years, including hiring a new superintendent, hiring a new high school principal, paving the parking lots and improving the athletic fields. “I believe that I had a little bit to do with that,” he said. “Obviously it wasn’t a one-man show. We have a great school board that works together very well.”

Cockle doesn’t mind having an opponent in the November election. “I welcome anybody to run for the school board, anyone who has interest in helping the kids,” he said. “Chad (Cornmesser) and I are great friends. He just feels that he would like to contribute to the school as well.”

For his part, Cornmesser said he’s just running for the school board, not necessarily running against Cockle. “It doesn’t have anything to do with Ron,” he said. “It just happens to be that he’s in the same district I am.”

Cornmesser, 40, is probably best known in the community as a longtime basketball coach, a sport both his daughters play. “I’ve coached out there off and on for 15 years or so,” he said. “It’s been fun. I got to see a lot of kids grow up.”

Running for the school board wasn’t a new idea, but since his youngest daughter is a sophomore now seemed like the right time. “It’s something I’ve been talking about doing,” he said.

There’s no specific issue that prompted him to run, Cornmesser said. “I just want to make it a place that kids that are in the district don’t want to leave,” he said. “We’re so close to Spokane, it’s easy for the kids to go to Spokane. Why not be educated in a classroom that’s smaller?”

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