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Local elections advance as filing period comes to a close

Local elections will be incumbent heavy come November as candidate filing periods closed this week.

There are four trustee areas up for election in Turlock Unified School District, two in Chatom Union, three in Keyes Union and three open seats in Denair Unified.

Appointed incumbent Barney Gordon filed a declaration for candidacy for Trustee Area 1 and incumbent Frank Lima filed a declaration of candidacy for Trustee Area 5. Newcomer Ken Malech, who is a teacher at Catherine Everett Elementary School in the Modesto City Schools District, will run for Trustee Area 3.

“There are many reasons as to why I decided to run for the TUSD Board of Trustees,” said Malech. “I just care about the kids here and I care about achieving academic success for all students.”

If elected, Malech said that he hopes to provide a distinct voice both as a teacher and a parent within the District. One of his primary goals is to make sure that each student is able to read fluently at grade level.

“In order for them to succeed in school, they need to be able to read fluently,” said Malech. “If they are having a hard time, there should be intensive intervention.”

One seat that remains vacant, however, is Trustee Area 7, which encompasses the westside of Turlock and parts of Merced County. As a result, the vacancy will be returned to the District which will decide on a method for appointment.

“This year marks our transition from at-large to trustee areas,” said TUSD Interim Superintendent Dana Salles Trevethan. “As a result, it is our hope that a community member in Area 7 will be interested in becoming involved in TUSD governance and contributing to a very strong and dedicated school board.”

Detailed maps of the TUSD Trustee Areas are available at

In Chatom Union, incumbent Steve Soderstrom filed a declaration of candidacy for Trustee Area 3 and incumbent Daniel Costa filed a declaration of candidacy for Trustee Area 4.

Residing in Trustee Area 1, incumbent Bob Edwards was the only one to file a declaration of candidacy for Keyes Union. Both Trustee Area 4 and Trustee Area 5, which is a short term position, were left vacant.

Four people filed  declarations for candidacy for three open seats in Denair Unified, including incumbent John Plett and incumbent Kathi Dunham-Filson. Two newcomers, Ray Prock Jr., who is a dairy farmer, and T.J. Lake, who is the human resources director at Creative Alternatives, are also hoping to occupy a seat in the upcoming election.

“This is my third time running, so I’ve wanted to be on the Board for a long time,” said Lake. “It is important for members of the community to be involved so I’m not going to give up and I’m going to keep running until I eventually get it.”

Lake said that he is very invested in the educational system, especially since he son just started kindergarten in the District. Overall, he said that he looks forward to the chance to bring vibrancy, energy and excitement to the Board.

“I have a lot of fresh ideas that we can use to keep DUSD a viable school district,” said Lake.

Three individuals are vying for two Turlock Irrigation District Board of Director positions this upcoming election season, with incumbent Michael Frantz running against newcomer Tracy Sunde for Division 1.

Incumbent Rob Santos, president of Valley Critter Care, Inc., also filed a declaration of candidacy for Division 4.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at TID, and I am running for re-election to continue my efforts to protect our water rights and our reliable electric supply,” said Santos. “I will continue to block our Governor's efforts to take our local water in order to use it to mitigate the detrimental effects his twin water tunnels will have on the Delta.”

Santos said that he will work alongside surrounding cities in order to provide safe drinking water, as well as the county to develop a plan to sustain groundwater. He also said that one of his priorities entails upgrading canals and water ways as an effort to save more water, which can then be used within the district.

"Our electric rates continue to be some of the lowest in California,” said Santos. “My fiscally conservative actions will keep our rates low while avoiding short-term, large rate hikes.”