Garfield County voters have unseated a 10-year school board veteran and upended plans for a more financially sound hospital district.
Challenger Ed Fruh held a significant lead over longtime school board member Paul Ruark in Tuesday’s vote count. Fruh received 492 votes to Ruark’s 352.
While final election results will not be certified until Nov. 26, the county auditor’s office estimated that only 50 ballots remain to be counted.
Voter turnout was 57.18 percent, with 896 ballots cast, out of a total of 1,567 registered voters.
Fruh said his top goal is improving district communication with the public by making the board’s decision process clearer and the results better publicized. He also said the district needs to offer more vocational education courses, since not all graduates have their sights set on four-year college degrees.
“The old saying is you never leave a student behind,” he said. “Well, we’re leaving students behind because we’re not giving them the opportunity to learn with their hands.”
Ruark was first appointed to the school board in June 2003, following another member’s resignation. He was elected in November 2003 for a two-year unexpired term, and re-elected in 2005 and 2009 for four-year terms.
Ruark did not respond to calls seeking comment.
In Pomeroy’s City Council, incumbent Dennis Gillis held on to his Position 4 seat, defeating challenger Lee Bingman with 56.9 percent of the vote. Erin Darby won 411 votes for Position 5, defeating Joel Reyerson’s 83 votes by a comfortable margin. Position 5 incumbent Alesia Ruchert did not seek re-election.
Garfield County voters also voted down a levy lid lift for the Garfield County Hospital District. The levy would have permanently increased the district’s regular tax rate from 34 cents to 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Garfield County Hospital District CEO Andrew Cragie said the district faced a $500,000 deficit but cut that in half through cost reductions. The levy would have covered the remaining $250,000 anticipated for next year.
“There’s no question it will be very difficult for us,” Craigie said this morning. “We were really counting on the lid lift as a key component of stabilizing our district.”
Rachel Alexander can be reached at email@example.com or 509-526-8363.