Barry Gann, who has served in education for more than 30 years and was raised in Robinson, will be the newest trustee to serve on the Robinson Independent School District school board after winning his election in a landslide.
“This gives me a different angle to get into education other than being a principal or a teacher,” Gann said of his victory. “When you’ve been at it as long as I have, for 32 years, you miss it. I’m excited. I’m excited to get back to work in the school business.”
Gann, who retired from education three years ago, brought in more almost 74 percent of the vote with 2,474 total. His opponent, Danielle Williams, a Baylor University English lecturer, received 875 votes.
“I’m happy for Mr. Gann. I think he’s going to do a great job. I look forward to running in the future,” Williams said after the race. “There’s actually a lot of things I’ve learned about through this process. There are different committees I might try to get involved with. It’s opened my eyes to different avenues of public service. I’m proud to live in Robinson, and I think this was a positive experience.”
They were the only two competing for the Place 3 seat, one of two seats up for election in Robinson ISD. The other seat was filled by incumbent Jeff Strain for Place 4. Strain ran unopposed.
The race was one of four school board elections Tuesday across McLennan County.
“I’m approaching this with an open mind, and the biggest focus is what’s right for the kids, what’s right for the students,” Gann said. “After that, I think every school in the state is having issues maintaining good teachers. That’s something that sticks in my mind. I don’t have an agenda going into this. I always felt like teaching isn’t just a job, but a service, and I still feel the need to be of service, and this is the best way I could do that.”
The next big race of the night was the most contested with seven candidates vying for two open seats. Riesel saw a shake-up, with challengers beating the two incumbents in the race.
Lifelong Riesel resident and Riesel ISD graduate Ruth Anne Schroeder came out on top with 24 percent of the votes, or 345 total.
Ben Saage, who also ran about four years ago and has two children in high school in Riesel, followed close behind with 307 votes to win the other open seat.
Both filling the seats said in October the biggest obstacle facing the district right now is finding a solution to a budget crises that developed earlier this year. A McLennan County jury’s verdict in August sliced the tax appraisal of the Sandy Creek coal-fired power plant by more than half, putting a heavy burden on Riesel ISD because of a $25 million bond passed in 2010. The bond passed with the understanding that taxes from the plant would cover at least 80 percent of bond payments each year.
“I have a business background and I value the importance of protecting the taxpayers’ hard-earned money,” Schroeder said ahead of Election Day. “I am committed to public involvement and will encourage attendance at school board meetings and school activities.
“I believe a school board should represent the values of the community and must set goals to achieve short-term and long-term goals and priorities. I believe in the democratic process but will not ‘rubber-stamp’ every proposal without asking questions first for a full understanding of what is best for students and staff.”
Saage said he wants to have input that draws on his 30 years of experience as a teacher and school administrator.
“Right now, the really huge issue is the reduction in the property value of that power plant, and that’s where a little bit of my experience comes in,” Saage said in October. “I’ve spent a good part of my career dealing with school budgets, finance, tax rates and school construction and the operation side of the school district.”
The other candidates fell short, with Adam Benton earning 142 votes, Kooper Sjolander earning 51 votes and Leigh Ann Holloway earning 85 votes. Incumbents Chris Dieterich and Mike Searight earned 275 and 213, respectively.
In northeastern McLennan County, newcomer and Deputy U.S. Marshal Joe “Scooter” Bays took on three incumbents to fill one of three seats in Axtell ISD. He led the race with almost 30 percent of the vote, or 618 ballots.
Incumbents James Caldwell and Brian Frankum fill the other two seats, with Caldwell taking 507 votes and Frankum taking 490 votes. Incumbent Ricky Stecher fell short with 460 votes.
Moody ISD, on the southern edge of the county, won’t see any turnover. Incumbents Jeff Dean, Carol Haas and Justin L. Foster held on to their three at-large seats, with 405, 381 and 363 votes respectively. Challenger Leann Sanchez came in last with 281 votes.