BENTON CITY -- Two men who ran for the Kiona-Benton City School Board on similar platforms, calling for improved communication and fewer outside contracts to save money, appear to be its newest members.
Tim Cook in District 1 and Wayne J. Elston representing District 4 were leading after unofficial results Tuesday night.
Jill M. Renz-Whitman, who challenged Cook, may have lost the race but will keep her District 3 seat for two more years.
Each Ki-Be board member represents a geographic area within the district.
Renz-Whitman lived in District 3 during the 2009 election but since has moved to District 1, and had hope to secure the seat in her new area. That means she will not be able to run for re-election in 2013 unless she moves again.
Elston was challenged by Charlotte Burruss, a former board member who wanted to win back her seat.
Preliminary returns show Cook with 904 votes, or 68 percent, to Renz-Whitman's 430 votes, or 32 percent. Elston had 758 votes, or 56 percent, with Burruss pulling in 588 votes, or 44 percent.
Ballots will continue to be counted today and Thursday, with updated results released at the end of each day. The election will be certified Nov. 29.
Ki-Be school board members serve four-year terms leading the district of about 1,500 students. They receive no compensation.
Cook and Elston were at the auditor's office in Kennewick on Tuesday to watch the vote tally.
Cook said he felt "pretty good" with the early results.
"People are speaking out. That's what we're looking at and it shows tonight," he said.
Renz-Whitman, 42, is the board's legislative representative, and says she has spent a lot of time lobbying legislators to keep state budget cuts to Ki-Be as low as possible.
But Cook said his opponent has been on the board long enough because she promised change in the last election, yet nothing has been done.
The 35-year-old welder at Hanford previously told the Herald that teachers and parents asked him to run because many are frustrated with the lack of information on contentious issues in the district.
Elston, 39, works for Benton County's public works department in road maintenance.
He's taking the school district to task on what he calls a lack of communication and the hiring of expensive contractors for work its own maintenance workers could have handled. A regular at the board meetings for two years, he says the members should be willing to hear parents' concerns.
"It's not over yet. We'll see tomorrow," Elston said, referring to his 170-vote lead over Burruss.
"This hopefully will definitely send a message to the school board that the people of Benton City want change," he added. "The next election is 2013, and the rest of the school board is up for re-election. So if they don't want to start changing, odds are they won't be sitting in those seats either."
Burruss, 63, was a board member for nine years in the late '80s and '90s.
She's said she has experience working with budgets, from her years on the school board along with her time at a Benton City bank and now as an operations specialist for waste and fuels project control at CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org