Wills, Peirce secure seats on Aspen school board
November 2, 2011
ASPEN – Sandra Peirce and Sheila Wills have been elected to the Aspen Board of Education. They will replace Fred Peirce and Laura Kornasiewicz, who must step down because of term limits.
According to final unofficial results Tuesday night, Wills was the top vote-getter with 1,571 votes, followed by Peirce’s 1,368. The third candidate, Carmen Dowley, received 960 votes.
In campaigning for the open seats, Wills, an educator, attorney and businesswoman with one son at Aspen High School, touted her diverse background as a reason for electing her to office.
“I’m happy, but now it’s time to get to work,” Wills said Tuesday night, while reviewing early election returns at the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. “Running for office is a difficult thing; it takes a while to figure out what message to send.
“Toward the middle of the campaign, I think I found that. And I think my experience and background were what really made a difference.”
Peirce, mother to a high school freshman and a recent AHS graduate, called herself the “homework” candidate.
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“It was a great campaign,” said Peirce after Tuesday’s results were in. “And though difficult decisions are ahead, I think that all the current and newly elected board members are lucky that that the stakeholders in this community support education.”
Dowley, an Aspen High School graduate and former teacher who now has three children in Aspen public schools, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night; her husband Jim sent an email reply thanking those who supported her candidacy.
Wills and Peirce both complimented Dowley on the campaign and her ongoing role with the school district.
“If we all could have been elected. I think it would have been a good thing,” Wills said. “Fortunately, volunteering is Carmen’s thing, and hopefully that will remain the same.”
Added Peirce: “I was very happy to campaign with both Carmen and Sheila; they both ran lovely, heartfelt campaigns. We are lucky in this community that we have choices.”
Another Aspen School District question on Tuesday’s ballot, Referendum 3A, asked voters to eliminate term limits for future school board members. The measure was soundly defeated, 2,034 to 740.
Under the Colorado constitution, school board members can serve two consecutive terms; in Aspen, terms are four years. The ballot questions sought to overrule the state regulation after term limits became a point of concern locally due to the potential composition of the board in coming years as Charla Belinski and Elizabeth Parker will be forced to leave the board in 2013.
Thus, with Wills and Peirce joining the board, the best-case scenario down the road – if institutional memory is an important foundation for success – is a board comprising one member with four years’ experience (Bob Glah, if re-elected), two members with two years’ experience, and two members with no experience. Conversely, the board could ultimately comprise three new members and two members with only two years’ experience in 2014.