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In two East Valley School Board races incumbents lead, but 18-year-old challenger is close

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 7, 2017, 9:50 p.m.

Incumbent candidates lead in East Valley School district’s two contested board races, but a recent high school graduate remains within striking distance.

Incumbent Fred Helms,77, had a lead over 18-year-old challenger Emily Provencio. Helms had 51 percent of the vote, while Provencio had 48 percent.

“I’m pretty excited,” Provencio said. “Really humbled and surprised by how many votes I’ve received already. And, yeah, just sort of holding out hope for the next results.”

Helms was surprised as well, saying he thought he’d win going into election night but was less sure now.

Still, Helms believes his message resonated with East Valley voters. He believes East Valley should bring back its Future Farmers of America club and not focus solely on computers.

“I think the people like the old school, especially in East Valley,” he said.

Provencio, who graduated from East Valley High School last spring, believes the board is out of touch with the students. Her competitive showing Tuesday shows her that voters chose to “put their faith in somebody who they see as more in touch with the students.”

In East Valley’s other board race incumbent Justin Voelker beat out challenger Nathaniel Rooney.

Voelker has 62 percent of the vote. Rooney had 37 percent.

“I’m energized and I’m excited to be re-elected,” Voelker said.

While Voelker has been on the board the district has seen improvements in finance and curriculum, alongside improved test scores for sixth- and eighth-grade students. Voelker also supported a district initiative aimed at providing every student with a Macbook.

He added, “It’s been a challenge, but I’m really glad the citizens of East Valley had faith in me to reelect.”