Park City school board incumbent takes commanding election night lead over write-in challenger
In one of the most closely watched local races this election, early results showed Park City Board of Education President Andrew Caplan with a nearly two-to-one vote margin over write-in candidate Thomas Cooke.
The preliminary results released by the Summit County Clerk’s Office Tuesday night show Caplan with a lead of 1,314 votes (64%) to Cooke’s 738 (36%) in the District 2 contest.
Though thousands of votes remain to be counted countywide, school board seats are apportioned geographically and Caplan’s lead appears secure, barring a landslide in late returns.
Caplan has been the board president and its most vocal spokesperson during the district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cooke, a Snyderville Basin planning commissioner, said he ran to increase transparency and communication.
Caplan declined to comment Tuesday night, preferring, he said, to wait until results had been finalized.
Cooke said the numbers were encouraging, though he wished they were different. He added that there are still votes to be counted.
“Local elections matter,” Cooke said. “As we are fixated on national races that we don’t have much control over, I am encouraged to know we can make an impact in our own communities.”
Summit County Clerk Kent Jones indicated a nearly complete vote report might be released Monday, Nov. 9.
District 2 comprises the Trailside, Highland Estates and Snyder’s Mill neighborhoods, as well as the northern half of Park Meadows. In 2016, 2,214 votes were cast in the district, while Tuesday night’s results included 2,052 votes.
District 2 is the only contested Park City Board of Education race. Incumbents Wendy Crossland and Anne Peters were unchallenged.
The school district is in the planning stages of a massive facilities upgrade, with officials predicting a bond for new schools in coming years with a likely price tag above $50 million. It appears Caplan will remain in a leadership role as that process continues.
Caplan has two children in district schools and lives in the Old Ranch Road neighborhood. He has touted the board’s progress during his tenure in increasing teacher compensation, lowering class sizes and improving school safety.
His outspoken leadership style has drawn criticism, with Cooke saying he was motivated to run because of a letter the board sent to teachers that appeared to tie a salary increase to teacher support for the district’s plans to return to in-person schooling this fall.
Cooke called the letter heavy handed, saying the district had lost the trust of its teachers.
Caplan has pushed back on that assertion and said that a $2.4 million raise would have been a tough sell if teachers did not return to the classroom.
South Summit and North Summit races
All three South Summit Board of Education seats that were up for election Tuesday night were contested races, the first election after an $87 million bond to fund a new high school failed last year.
In the race for outgoing president Suni Woolstenhulme’s District 1 seat, Wendy Radke is leading Wade Woolstenhulme 251 votes to 212, according to preliminary results. Wade Woolstenhulme is the mayor of Oakley and principal of the South Summit High School. District 1 represents Oakley.
In District 2, which represents Kamas, incumbent Dan Eckert holds an 80-vote edge over challenger David Darcey, 320 votes to 240.
Past Board President Jim Snyder opted not to defend his District 3 seat, which represents Francis, and Lynda Whitmore is leading Dustin Hatch 282 votes to 152.
The district is facing overcrowding issues and has asked voters to approve bonds for new facilities twice since 2017, with both bond measures failing.
In the North Summit School District, Susan Richins and Waylon Bond were each running unopposed, while Shane Robertson and Clark Staley were in a close race for District 3.
According to the preliminary results, Staley had 178 votes to Robertson’s 142.
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The Park City Board of Education is on track to place a bond on the ballot this fall to improve district facilities. The top priorities would be to put ninth grade in the high school, eighth grade in the middle school and to augment preschool offerings by expanding elementary schools.