Cleary to face Higgins for Richland School Board seat

Tri-City HeraldAugust 6, 2013 

Richland School Board Vice Chairwoman Heather Cleary will go head-to-head with challenger Ron Higgins for a seat on the board this fall.

Cleary was in first place Tuesday with 4,355 votes, or 55 percent of the vote. Higgins had 2,741 votes, or 34 percent. Challenger Jimmie D. Chastain II was a distant third with 765 votes, or 10 percent.

“I was just very pleased, what else can I say?” Cleary said after seeing the results.

Cleary has been on the board since 2005, though she said she’s volunteered in Richland schools for 20 years, starting with her children’s classrooms.

She and the rest of the board have sought to address the district’s growth, putting a $98 million bond on the ballot in February that was approved by voters and will pay for several schools. She’s also been supportive of increasing the use of technology in classrooms and improving teaching practices.

Cleary, along with the rest of the board, also fired former Superintendent Jim Busey in January after it was discovered that he’d been having a sexual relationship with a district employee. Busey is currently suing the district for wrongly termination.

Cleary said she couldn’t pinpoint a specific reason why she garnered so much support from voters and she didn’t know what to think going into the general election.

“You just do the work and hope people are pleased,” she said.

Higgins, 65, previously worked on the Hanford site but is now a substitute teacher. He unsuccessfully ran for state superintendent of schools last year.

Higgins campaigned heavily in the last few weeks, appearing at the Richland farmer’s market and other events, he said.

“If you want to get elected, especially against an incumbent, you better get your message out,” he said.

He cited his teaching experience as one of his credentials and has also been critical of the Common Core State Standards — new math and language arts standards being implemented in most states, including Washington. However, Higgins couldn’t pinpoint a specific issue of his that resonated with voters, he said.

Chastain, 42, works in finance for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and has five children attending Richland schools. He said he was grateful for the voters who supported him and plans to seek a seat on the board in the future. It was his first run at a public office.

“I have to work a little on communicating my ideas to people,” he said.

Tuesday’s count included ballots turned into drop boxes by 3 p.m. Election officials will begin counting the rest Wednesday. The election will be certified Aug. 20.

Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402;; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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