Preliminary primary election results reveal tight school board races

A handful of votes separated the candidates on Tuesday night

There were 10 drop box locations, like the one pictured outside of the Summit County Health Department, throughout the county ahead of Tuesday’s primary election.
Park Record file photo

The November ballot has taken shape based on the unofficial results from Tuesday night’s primary election, giving Summit County voters insight into key races this fall.

While many Republican incumbents at the state and federal levels overpowered their challengers, local races for board of education seats in the Park City School District and the South Summit School District had much tighter margins.

Each of the school district contests had three candidates, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election in November. 

Mandy Pomeroy, Josh Mann and Meredith Reed were campaigning for Park City School Board District 4, which serves Jeremy Ranch and Silver Creek. Jerry Parker, Olivia Gunnerson and Troy Beckstead were the candidates on the ballot for South Summit School Board District 5, which represents portions of Kamas and Francis.

According to preliminary results recorded by the Summit County Clerk’s Office on Wednesday, Reed earned 502 votes, or 34.5%, Pomeroy received 485 votes, or 33.4%, and Mann collected 466 votes, or 32%.

Clerk Evelyn Furse said the results include mail-in and drop box ballots, early votes and day-of votes. They do not include provisional ballots, ballots with signatures that need to be verified or overseas and mail-in ballots delivered after Wednesday.

The numbers are similar to where figures stood throughout primary election night, signaling that a close race was likely. The first round of results, from around 8:40 p.m. on Tuesday, indicated Reed had received 340 votes. Pomeroy had 328 and Mann had 322. Tallies from around 10 p.m. show Reed’s total had increased to 454. Pomeroy’s total also rose to 427 votes and Mann received 398 votes.

Reed noted in an interview the results are unofficial, but she said she’s pleased with the outcome and to be moving forward in the race. She credits her background and experience as the factors that set her apart from the other candidates.

She said she wasn’t surprised by the close race because the school board contest was the only one on the ballot for many people, depending on their party affiliation, which led to decreased participation. 

There was estimated to be around 44% total voter turnout in Summit County on Tuesday, with only 25% participation in the nonpartisan school board race.

Reed spent time speaking with neighbors living in the school district before the primary election, which, she said, showed her the wide spectrum of people’s knowledge about the board of education and gave her the chance to educate voters as part of outreach efforts. The most common concerns from constituents were about the attitude toward teachers and how they can be better supported, what’s being done to improve hiring and retention, and the district’s response to bullying and hate speech.

She said winning a spot on the board of education in November would be the first step, which will allow Reed to pursue her goals of bringing communication, accountability and transparency to the panel. 

Heading into November, Reed is planning to continue campaign efforts by going door to door and speaking with voters. She also anticipates receiving support in the general election from those who voted for Mann because the candidates had a similar platform.

Pomeroy, who was appointed to serve as an interim board member until the election, is also excited to move forward in the campaign. She said it’s been a pleasure serving the community so far and is looking forward to the opportunity to continue doing so.

Like Reed, Pomeroy attributes her success on Tuesday to her experience, engagement and involvement in the school district.

She spent time hosting meet-and-greets, developing a social media campaign and putting up signs to connect with voters. Pomeroy said she most often heard about a lack of trust between school personnel and the community as well as the need for improved communication.

The candidate said she wants to serve on the school board because she hopes to be a positive influence that affects everyone. Pomeroy added she’s willing to listen and act on the community’s needs and that she isn’t afraid to speak up when something needs to be changed. She said it’s been a privilege to serve on the school board and she will continue being an advocate if elected in November.

In South Summit, Gunnerson clearly emerged as the top candidate, but just a handful of votes will decide who has the second spot in the general election. 

Gunnerson received 180 votes, or around 55%, while Parker earned 73 votes, or 22%, and Beckstead had 77 votes, or 23%, as of Wednesday. 

The first round of numbers from Tuesday showed Parker had a slight lead over Beckstead with 52 to 41 votes. Later in the night, Parker had 63 votes to Beckstead’s 60.

Election results are not final until the Summit County Council, which will act as the Board of Canvassers, approves the numbers during an official canvass within two weeks of the election, which is scheduled July 12.

Candidates may then choose to file for a recount if the difference between votes is equal to or less than .25% of the total votes cast.

There were 1,453 votes cast in the Park City School Board election, according to the preliminary results. That would require a margin of around 4 votes for a recount. The margin is even smaller when there are fewer ballots, like the 330 preliminary votes cast in the South Summit race.

Gunnerson, who will likely move on to the general election, said she was very happy and excited by Tuesday’s preliminary results. 

She spent time speaking with voters over the phone and in person before the primary election and she plans to bolster her campaign efforts and improve engagement moving into November.

If elected, Gunnerson wants to address concerns about high school test scores and ways to recruit teachers as housing prices continue to rise in Summit County. She said she wants to reflect the values of the East Side and is looking for creative options to solve local problems.

Parker said he wasn’t surprised to see Gunnerson climb to the top of the candidate pool because of her experience, but he said he also has something to offer the community. His work as an educator and a coach is an asset, he said, and Parker wants to serve on the school board to help cultivate a positive experience for students, staff and the community.

Beckstead was also inspired to run for the school board to help improve the district and ensure children are allowed to succeed. He said the opportunity to join the board of education, a system designed to help kids grow, is one of his priorities.

Furse doesn’t anticipate any further primary election updates until the canvass unless a critical mass of ballots is received.

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