In Tuesday’s elections, a high schooler running for Gatesville Independent School District’s school board fell short of his goal, while two revenue-driving measures passed in Connally and Mart ISDs, increasing the tax rate for both districts.

Ryan Coggins, 18, and 12 other candidates were vying for three at-large school board seats. Each seat is a 3-year term, and 4,494 votes were cast during the race. Coggins, the youngest school board candidate in Gatesville ISD history, didn’t win in his first time running for a public office, but several challengers beat out the three incumbents in the race. Coggins beat three opponents with 161 votes, but it wasn’t enough to land him a seat, according to results posted to the Coryell County Tax Assessor’s website.

“I’m disappointed in the results. I was hoping I would have a spot on the board, but I’m happy with where I stand. I fell in the middle and beat out a few people,” Coggins said. “I’d like to congratulate the other candidates, as well, on their victory.”

Coggins may consider running again next year, but until then, he will finish out the school year helping Gatesville students the best he can before attending McLennan Community College to study accounting and ultimately planning to move on to a four-year university, he said.

Instead, the seats will be filled by newcomers John Westbrook, an educational consultant, with 943 votes; Rob Erwin, a TTG Utilities haul truck driver, with 704 votes; and David Fincher, an auto body repair shop owner, with 541 votes. The board will now have to decide on a school board president, vice president and secretary for the district of about 3,000 students.

“It is incredibly humbling. I appreciate the faith people have in me and I will do everything I can to try to warrant their trust,” Westbrook said about his win. “I just want to make sure that we are providing our students with all the opportunities they need so they can pursue their interests and that we will be addressing their needs.

“I think we do that largely, also, by supporting our teachers. I think we have made some good strides in addressing the academic needs of our students and I would like to see that keep going forward.”

Board president Stephen A. Norris, vice president Deborah Crosby Ford and secretary Lisbeth Graham Appleman received 380, 243 and 215 votes, respectively.

Other vote totals: Charles Alderson, 396; Lisa Pruitt Bankhead, 328; Joseph Campbell, 87; Tony Fernandez, 67; Stephen Minton, 34; Bruce Thoms, 359.

Connally ISD

Connally ISD voters passed a tax ratification election 269 votes to 227, increasing the district’s maintenance and operations tax rate by 13 cents per $100 of property value, making the overall rate now $1.37 per $100 of valuation.

The TRE gives Connally a chance to bring in an extra $1.6 million more in state money to fund academic improvements and transportation needs, Superintendent Wesley Holt stated earlier this year.

“We’re excited, it’s a big deal. Now we’ll be able to do the things we need to do for our kids,” Holt said Tuesday night. “We’re going to do what we said we were going to do and put this money toward instruction that will help make these kids successful.”

The state money will go toward new learning materials, instructional aides, technology, teacher training, staff development, improving band facilities and more. The TRE will also help cover the district’s full-day pre-kindergarten program, hiring bus aides, replacing aging school buses and repairing campus roads, Holt said.

Mart ISD

Voters passed a $9.2 million bond by a tally of 229 to 89 for Mart ISD to fund a new high school and other facility improvements.

The bond’s approval will likely increase the district’s tax rate of a little more than $1.20 per $100 of property value by about 32.5 cents. But it’s still lower than the district’s rate of $1.60 per $100 of value from 2000-2004.

“Needless to say, we’re excited,” interim Superintendent Len Williams said Tuesday night. “The majority of the community has spoken with the vote and we’re excited for the future of our children.”

The bond also comes on the heels of a $4 million donation from an alumnus earlier this year to help pay for a new campus, which will replace the 1929 high school which was closed this summer.

The new high school will be attached to the junior high building and is expected to have at least 20 new classrooms, a state-of-the-art science and technology lab and new vocational areas, including an agriculture classroom and a shop area, Williams said earlier this year. The school will also include a new competition gym that accommodates more than 600 spectators and new locker rooms, according to a diagram of the plan provided by the district.

Riesel ISD

Also in McLennan County, incumbents dominated two other school board races.

Two candidates ran for an unexpired term on the Riesel ISD board of trustees, and Roger Fitzpatrick came out on top with 164 votes to Shane Howard’s 126 votes.

Out of five other candidates vying for a full-term, at-large Riesel ISD seat, incumbent and board president Tom McClintock narrowly retained his seat, winning by two votes with 159 ballots, while the other candidates fell as followed: Chris Dieterich with 157; Kirk Hoelscher, 129; Glenna Sandhoff, 105; and Leigh Ann Holloway with 19 votes.

West ISD

In West ISD, incumbent Leigh Crawshaw and challenger Emma Vuia went head to head to represent Place 2 on the board of trustees. Crawshaw retained her seat 306 votes to 178.

Of the 132,556 registered voters in the county, only 5,264 turned out .

Shelly Conlon has covered K-12 education for the Tribune-Herald since July 2016. Prior to the Tribune-Herald, she was the managing editor for the Waxahachie Daily Light, and an intern for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

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