The Tulare County Elections Office has certified results of the November 3 general election, and two incumbent politicians are on their way out after their races were decided by single digits.
In Tulare, Steve Harrell has edged out incumbent City Councilman Carlton Jones by just seven votes, while at the Visalia Unified School District (VUSD) a scant eight votes will put retired teacher Christopher Pope in the Area 6 seat now occupied by Dr. Lucia Vázquez.
Vázquez Earns Break
Vázquez is looking forward to having more time to herself after nine years as a member of the VUSD Board of Trustees. The voters, she said, have spoken.
“I came in second place,” Vázquez said. “I’m not planning on asking for a recount.”
The outgoing trustee says she hopes her replacement will always include the student’s point-of-view when weighing issues.
“I think my big thing is that the decisions we make are difficult. When we do boundaries, when we make bond decisions, when we look at programming and direction, sometimes that’s not easy,” Vázquez said. “We have to put ourselves in the position of the children. We don’t always agree, and that’s why it’s important to have a variety on the board.”
The veteran educator and trustee said she’s encouraged by the recent high level of public interest in the VUSD’s operations.
“It’s also very important to hear from the community. Now, that’s one of the things I’m happy about, the involvement in our school board,” Vázquez said. “We have hundreds of people watching along. I hope that continues.”
That interest makes Vázquez more comfortable as she turns the seat over to a new official, and makes it easier for her to enjoy her now less public life.
“You don’t have a private life. You don’t take vacations,” she said. “I’ve earned a little bit of a break.”
Three-way Tie in Stone Corral
In an interesting twist, three candidates for two seats on the Stone Corral Elementary School District Governing Board have all received exactly 68 votes. Stone Corral is a small community adjacent to Yettem in northern Tulare County, west of the Woodlake area.
The three candidates are Erik Gonzalez, Tom Redemer and Deborah C. Roberts, all of whom received 33.3% of the 204 votes cast.
Determining which of the three candidates will not be seated is the responsibility of the school district, said Tulare County Registrar of Voters Michelle Baldwin.
“It’s up to the jurisdiction. They have bylaws in place to deal with this situation,” she said. “I don’t know if they’ll pull names out of a hat or draw straws or something like that. It’s up to them.”
Council Meeting Cut Short
By Tuesday, December 1, news of the election certification had yet to reach Tulare City Hall, forcing that body to cut a meeting that evening short so business items could be considered by the two newest members, Patrick Isherwood and Steve Harrell.
Isherwood and Harrell will be installed on the council at its next meeting, scheduled for December 8 at 6pm in the Council Chambers at the Tulare City Library, 491 N. M Street. At that time, the newest council members will be sworn in following exit statements by outgoing council members Jones and Greg Nunley. Nunley did not attend the December 1 meeting.
Jones, who was the center of repeated controversy during his terms on the council, seemed to accept his loss in the extremely close race. As the council discussed COVID-19 and the return of drought conditions to California, he appeared to address his remarks to the incoming officials.
“I would hope that the future council, future leadership of the city, can address things like that,” he said.
Changing of the Guard
Jones’ replacement, Harrell, said he has many issues he’d like to address, but first he has some learning to do.
“I’ve got a lot of things I want to get started on right away,” Harrell said. “I’m the kind to sit back and listen to what others have to say.”
He’s optimistic about the city’s future.
“It’s just the changing of the guard,’ Harrell said. “We’ll see what happens. Hopefully, lots of good things for Tulare.”