Jim Stoffer, pictured speaking during a League of Women Voters forum in October for the candidates for Sequim School Board, position 3, won reelection on Nov. 5. Olympic News Group file photo by Jesse Major

Jim Stoffer, pictured speaking during a League of Women Voters forum in October for the candidates for Sequim School Board, position 3, won reelection on Nov. 5. Olympic News Group file photo by Jesse Major

2019 General Election: Stoffer leading in reelection for Sequim School Board seat

The incumbent candidate has earned nearly 60% of the vote

Jim Stoffer has won reelection for his Sequim School District Board of Directors’ Position 3 seat, with a more than 2,200-vote lead over challenger Beth Smithson after a Nov. 9 ballot count.

Most recent general election results show Stoffer with 6,977 votes, or about 59 percent of the 11,810 total votes cast for the position, with Smithson getting 4,802 votes, or a little more than 40 percent.

In Clallam County, Stoffer had 6,908 votes to Smithson’s 4,735 votes, and led among the few Jefferson County voters within the district boundaries, 69-67.

“When I first ran four years ago,” Stoffer said on election night, Nov. 5, “it wasn’t a one-and-out. You had to be ready for a second term because of the complexity of the work involved in serving on the school board. Being on the board is a more complex thing than most people expect, and now I bring that experience from a full term to the table and can utilize that going forward.

“This is about sharing ideas (within our district and others) and learning about the challenges we face as members of the school board. The work of representing our students and schools is so important.

“It’s been a rough couple of years,” Stoffer added. “There’s a lot of reasons for that, but we’re working through that from a high level view and we’re making it better.”

Smithson was unavailable for comment about the results.

“I applaud anyone who runs for a public office,” Stoffer said of his opponent. “That takes a lot to do, and not everyone can even take that step.”

Of the three school board seats up for election this year, Stoffer was the only current director seeking re-election. Neither Heather Short (Position 5) nor Robin Henrikson (Position 1) decided to run again, with Henrikson resigning her position in August. With neither of those incumbents running for re-election, Smithson was the lone female candidate on the ballot for any of the school board seats.

Larry Jeffryes, who eventually ran unopposed for Henrikson’s seat, was selected to be her interim replacement in September after his opponent, Jerry Mote, dropped his write-in campaign.

Eric Pickens won the position 5 seat in an unopposed final campaign after his opponent, Charles Smith, dropped out of the race in October. Smith still appeared on the ballot as his decision came after the ballots were printed.

In election results released on Nov. 5, Pickens had 4,253 votes (71 percent) to Smith’s 1,745 votes, including a 4,203-1,722 lead among Clallam County voters and 50-23 in Jefferson County.

Campaign issues

Bullying in the school district took center stage during the campaign, both among students and staff. The Sequim School District was sued in 2018 by former teacher Autumn St. George over workplace discrimination, a suit that the district ultimately paid $850,000 in March to settle out of court.

“One thing I have always been clear about is where I stand on bullying: not here, not there, not anywhere in Sequim schools,” Stoffer said in an interview before the election.

“All students, and all staff, deserve to be treated with courtesy and respect each and every day. In any organization, whatever it may be; we need to be able to listen to and value opinions that differ from our own.

“How we treat others with differing viewpoints is of vital importance. As individuals, it is important to recognize our own bias; we need to evaluate them critically, and then challenge assumptions and traditions. I believe in listening, treating (everyone) with respect, and being strong in the face of adversity.”

Stoffer, a retired member of the U.S. Coast Guard, has served in his role as a board director since winning his initial election in 2015, and is the longest-tenured member of the current board.

He also serves as the board’s legislation representative with the Washington State School Directors’ Association, where he additionally serves on the legislative committee that reviews and recommends positions for legislative issues for WSSDA.

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