I haven’t missed voting in an election since I turned 18.
I registered as a Republican.
It was different times back then. It was a different party.
My first ballot cast was in the June 11, 1974 primary election. Houston Flournoy was my pick for governor. He beat Ed Reinecke.
Flournoy faced Jerry Brown in his first time around the block in the Nov. 5, 1974 general election. By today’s standards, the campaign was boring and a mutual lovefest.
Brown got 50.11 percent and Flournoy got 47.25 percent of the vote. Brown succeeded Ronald Reagan as governor. Flournoy, by the way, conceded defeat the morning after the election
My third election on March 4, 1975 was a bit more eventful.
It was the Western Placer Unified School District board election.
There were two seats up for grabs — one representing the former Lincoln Elementary School District boundaries and the other the old Thermalands School District area just south of Camp Far West Lake on the Bear River.
I was a tad more invested when I voted in my third election.
The reason was simple. My name was on the ballot for the Lincoln seat.
My 19th birthday on Election Day was still 27 days away.
There were four other people on the ballot including Dorothy Bickford, a well-respected 20-year incumbent.
No one thought I could win. After all, I was an 18-year-old just 11 months out of Lincoln High.
When the tally was done, 764 people had entrusted me with their vote. It was just roughly 300 more than the incumbent. Another 200 votes were split between the two other candidates.
A month later I was a 19-year-old being sworn in as one of five people elected to oversee a district of 2,400 students with one high school and four elementary students.
By the time 1976 rolled around I was the target of a recall effort by a retired teacher who lived across the street from the high school campus who did not want to see the Lincoln High athletic facilities upgraded using a combination of donations and county recreation fees assessed on new growth.
I had not only come up with the idea, convinced fellow board members to allow it to proceed but also chaired the committee that organized labor, raised money, and secured donations of material.
It was nowhere near the level of what the Ripon Community Athletic Foundation has accomplished but it was the same general idea.
Despite the retired teacher’s best efforts, she fell short of the needed signatures to force a recall. I was unopposed two years later for re-election. And after 8 years as a trustee, I honored a promise I made which was not to serve more than two terms.
What I learned and experienced in those eight years eclipsed the impact of much of what I learned in three years of college.
California’s public school system — steeped in education jargon, complex funding, and convoluted with often murky state edicts — is an interesting cat onto itself. But I also learned how to interact with people.
People who did not share my same values, but I needed to find common ground to move toward securing changes I thought were needed.
People who were angry when interacting with school board members due to some slight or serious issue they were dealing with.
People who did not care what the state laws you were sworn to uphold said could or couldn’t be done and didn’t understand why you weren’t stroking the fans of a revolution.
The education I received was priceless. It was also the only compensation as school board members at the time served without stipends.
All of that said, I do not profess to be an expert on running an election campaign.
My campaign was based on four issues:
*Misrepresentation of growth and bonding capacity that the district had used to unsuccessfully try to pass a school bond measure two years prior.
*The failure to pursue more affordable remodeling and campus addition options given we were a high tax, low wealth district meaning the people were taxed at near the maximum while the assessed value in the district at the time was on the low side of the state average. Not only did that impact operational funding since local tax dollars were key before Proposition 13 passed, but we lacked the bonding capacity to build a new complete basic high school as the district contended.
*The district dismissing concerns about a drug issue at Lincoln High.
*Questionable — and later determined to be illegal — use of students during class time in a business class to address and prepare for mailing brochures urging people to vote for the school bond.
Clearly, my concern on the issues didn’t come out of the blue. The prior three years before running underscores the fact I may have had a slightly different experience during my high school years than most teens do.
My campaign effort was simple. It was a solo effort
I spent less than $1,000 of my own money. I did not have yard signs.
There was an 11 x 14 “brochure” designed for mailing. I took it door to door. If people answered the door, I engaged them if they wished. The homes I didn’t get to in Lincoln and Sheridan — about 25 percent — I mailed the brochure to them as well as rural residents.
One side of the brochure was what one might call a tad nerdy. I listed exactly how I’d try to approach school facility’s needs. It wasn’t in generalities. There were specifics and numbers you could try to pick apart if so inclined.
If I encountered someone who disagreed with me or thought I was being an upstart running for school board as an 18-year-old I politely listened and in an even tone tried to make my case.
I did not speak ill of my opponents unless, of course, simply saying I believed the incumbent was out of touch and the board needed a new perspective was being rude.
Respect is the bottom line.
Respect of those who cast votes whether they support you or oppose you.
Respect of opponents regardless of how diametrically you are opposed to their views,
Respect of your fellow elected trustees.
Without respect I seriously doubted I would have been elected, would have been able to help alter the course of Western Placer Unified, or been able to get other trustees to listen and ultimately buy into — in varying degrees — to change.