Voters decide Walla Walla, Dixie school board races

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WALLA WALLA — With just more than 80 percent of the vote, Sam Wells was elected Tuesday to the Walla Walla School Board.

In a race that began with three candidates running for the position, Wells ended the election essentially unopposed as candidates Brent Barberich and Joshua Gonzales dropped out of the election.

Wells had a healthy lead from the beginning, as he won an August primary over Joshua Gonzales with 58.8 percent of the vote (2,159 votes) compared to Gonzales’ 34 percent (1,250 votes). Barberich had dropped out of the race before the primary but too late to remove his name from the ballot.

Gonzales dropped out of the election early in October, citing time conflicts with a new job. But it was too late to remove his name from the ballot and he received 741 votes, or 19.88 percent of the total votes cast. Wells received 2,986 votes.

Wells now joins a School Board in the middle of major facilities planning, as the board is considering several options to renovate Walla Walla High School after a bond to renovate the school failed in February.

Wells, who attended a public work session on the topic on Oct. 22, said he hasn’t formed a solid opinion on the path the district should take.

“My opinion is kind of a work in progress,” Wells said. “I haven’t done all my due diligence yet, but I like the progress the board has made.”

In Dixie’s School Board elections, incumbent Gene Wilks holds a strong lead for the School Director 1 position with 68 votes over challenger Dana Gutierrez, who has 26 votes.

Allan Thonney leads in the race for School Director 2 with 56 votes to 34 for Richard Berrier.

It is unclear how many votes remain uncounted for the Dixie elections, however there are 433 registered voters in the district. The Walla Walla County Auditor expects to have final results by Friday. As of today there were 1,439 ballots remaining uncounted for the county as a whole.

Ben Wentz can be reached at benwentz@wwub.com or 526-8315.

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