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Sparse ballot on tap for Tuesday’s elections

Posted: November 1, 2013 5:25 p.m.
Updated: November 1, 2013 5:25 p.m.
Voters line up outside to vote at the Hasley Canyon Village polling place in Castaic in November 2012. Signal file art Voters line up outside to vote at the Hasley Canyon Village polling place in Castaic in November 2012. Signal file art
Voters line up outside to vote at the Hasley Canyon Village polling place in Castaic in November 2012. Signal file art

SANTA CLARITA - Tuesday’s off-year 2013 elections may lack the luster of those in even-numbered years, when high-profile races for governor or president are the main draws.

But those who cast votes this year will still have a say in determining leadership for three local elementary school districts and a water board.

Here’s some information on those races for before you walk into the voting booth.

What are the races?
There are four local races that will appear on ballots in the Santa Clarita Valley on Tuesday, but each individual voter will see no more than two on his or her ballot. All four elections are held at large, which means the top three vote-getters win the three seats up for grabs in each case. Below is a brief rundown of each.

Newhall schools
In the Newhall School District, there are three incumbents — Phil Ellis, Christy Smith and Brian Walters — who are running for re-election.

Originally elected in 1995 and re-elected in 2009, Ellis has served on a variety of boards and committees in the Santa Clarita Valley, including a stint on the school board for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

Smith, who is seeking her second term on the board, led the campaign to pass Measure E — the district’s bond measure. She also has a professional education background, having spent time as a policy analyst with the U.S. Department of Education.

Walters was appointed to the board in 2009. He also has served on the board of directors for the WiSH Education Foundation.

The trio is being challenged by a newcomer, Sandra Bull, who is running for a seat on the board following her retirement from years of work in the Sulphur Springs School District, including as an assistant principal.

Newhall Water
A similar situation is present in the Newhall County Water District, where three incumbents running for re-election face a single challenger.

Two of those incumbents are Maria Gutzeit, who has served on the board since 2003, and B.J. Atkins, who was first elected to the board in 2005.

In a candidates’ forum held in October, both Atkins and Gutzeit claimed water rates in the district as a key success of their tenures, saying prices for customers have been kept steady and low over the last few years.

The third incumbent seeking re-election is Kathy Colley, who was first elected to the board in 2009 despite admitting she had little to no knowledge about running a water district.

The non-incumbent in this race is Carl Puckett, who has cited his years of experience as a water system manager and engineer as reason why he would make an effective board member.

Sulphur Springs
Like the above races, the election in the Sulphur Springs district has one challenger, Ken Chase, joining the race along with three incumbents — Kerry Clegg, Michael Hogan and Lori MacDonald.

Clegg and Hogan are both longtime board members, with Hogan joining the board in 2000 and Clegg first being elected in 1989.

During his tenure, Clegg has been the district’s representative to a variety of local and state bodies, including the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association and the California School Boards Association.

Hogan is a member of the Santa Clarita Valley Trustees Association and has also served on oversight committees for bond measures in the Hart district and at College of the Canyons.

MacDonald, who was appointed to the board in 2012, taught for about 15 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Chase said his professional experience and expertise in monetary matters as an accountant would both be assets to the district as it makes its way out of the recent recession.

In terms of candidates, the most active election can be found in the Saugus Union School District, where five candidates — including incumbents Doug Bryce, Paul De La Cerda and Judy Umeck — are vying for seats this year.

All of the incumbents have served at least two terms on the board, and all have pointed to their experience on the board and as active community members as reasons they should be re-elected.

The three are challenged in the election by Stacie Allegra, an active parent and longtime Santa Clarita Valley resident, and Chris Trunkey, who is the chief financial officer for a film company.

Allegra has said her experience as a mother and her history of community involvement make her ideally suited to serve on the board.

Trunkey has been involved in parent-teacher associations and school site councils in the Saugus district and also pointed to his financial background as an asset.

What about other districts?
While four elections will appear on local ballots this year, an equal number were canceled because of a lack of candidates.

Scheduled elections for board seats in the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District, Castaic Union School District, Hart district and Santa Clarita Community College District were all foregone after only three candidates declared to run for the three seats available in each district by the August filing deadline.

Because no challengers emerged, Michael Berger, Joan MacGregor and recently appointed trustee Steve Zimmer were all declared elected to four-year terms on the Santa Clarita Community College District board, which oversees College of the Canyons.

The three incumbents in the Castaic district — Susan Christopher, Laura Pearson and Victor Torres — and Acton-Agua Dulce district — Mark Distaso, Ed Porter and Matt Ridenour — were likewise declared elected to new terms.

The story was much the same in the Hart district, where two incumbents — Bob Jensen and Joe Messina — will serve new terms. A third candidate, Chris Fall, was initially deemed elected before resigning from the board due to a potential conflict of interest.

Fall’s departure paved the way for another appointee, and in October the board pegged Placerita Canyon resident Rob Hall to fill the seat on the board.

When and where can I vote?
Polls in Los Angeles County are open on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

If you aren’t sure where your polling place is, you can locate nearby ones by using an online locator tool from the county Office of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. That can be found at

Those who have registered to vote by mail and have not yet cast their ballots can drop their vote-by-mail ballots off at any authorized polling place on Election Day.

Those who are not registered to vote by mail and are unable to vote in person on Election Day have the option of casting a ballot early at the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office on Sunday. That option is available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m at 12400 Imperial Highway, Room 3002, in Norwalk.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney


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