SELMA - Candidates running for seats on Selma and Kingsburg’s city councils, school boards and health district boards were experiencing a range of emotions on election night.
While all the precincts for the area have reported their results, the Fresno County Elections Office reports there are still an estimated 53,000 vote-by-mail ballots and 24,000 provisional ballots to be processed as of Nov. 9. The next results will be updated at 3 p.m. Nov. 14.
Candidates say they’re hopeful that whoever wins a spot on the respective boards moves their cities forward in regards to growth and economic development, improve students’ opportunities and wise fiscal decisions are made with the taxpayers’ dollars they oversee.
For Kingsburg, results show incumbent Staci Smith and Vince Palomar are in the lead for City Council representing the districts one and five. Mayor Michelle Roman ran unopposed and was appointed to keep her seat.
Kingsburg’s City Council elections are taking place by districts for the first time, but currently incumbent Stacie Smith has 20-point lead over Jewel Hurtado. Challenger Nathan Williams was in third place at deadline. Since there are 77,000 vote-by-mail and provisional ballots outstanding as of deadline however, that may change.
Smith said the requirement to vote by districts has changed the landscape of the race but since the town is relatively small, she still plans to make decisions with the entire community in mind if she keeps her seat.
“We want to make sure the community stays unified. I might live in this neighborhood, but I still support the whole community.”
Hurtado said she felt obligated to run and represent her district where she grew up once the election system changed.
“I know what I would have liked to have seen there when I was a kid and I know my neighbors. I work with Valley Forward and we’d go to all these other places to talk with people about their concerns. I did those same surveys in Kingsburg and I realized I needed to step up and be that voice.”
Regardless of the final outcome, she said she feels more connected to the community after campaigning.
“It was interesting to me to dive into this part of town and different streets I wasn’t familiar with. I have friends there now. So win or lose, I’ll be so happy. When you’re running against other great candidates, there’s nothing bad that can come of it. I’m excited.”
In the newly created district 5, Vince Palomar had an 82-point lead over his nearest opponent, Melissa Bethel. Since he coaches a youth football team, he was busy getting them ready for a Lions football game that weekend and didn’t have time for an election party that night.
“My friends wanted to get together and if I won, have a victory party. But I said I was going to go coach my kids and get ready for the championship game.”
Afterwards, he came home and said friends were texting that he was in the lead.
“I feel confident because I worked hard on my campaign. I talked with a lot of registered voters and told them if I get elected they should feel free to contact me. I’m not nervous since I coached so many sports I’ve been in situations where things are tight. I’m just anxious to see how the votes are going to go.”
Win or lose, Palomar said he hoped the town could continue its traditions while balancing growth.
“I’d like to keep Kingsburg kind of small, but I know we have some housing projects coming up. We need to do things to create revenue but keep that small-town charm. I know the state is bringing in laws that make it hard to do our things, but the city will deal with those. There’s something about this little town and my main goal is to keep that feeling of Kingsburg.”
Bethel said she too was eager to have the final results posted.
“I’m a bit nervous, but it’s not about me. It’s about the people in the community that live in my district and whatever they need. I need to listen to their voice.”
She’s been taking input and residents say safety is a high priority. If she’s elected, Bethel said then she’ll bring even more issues to the forefront.
“We’ll see what the voters vote for when it’s all said and done.”
In the Kingsburg Joint Union High School board vote, incumbent Brent Lunde has kept his lead. Board members Mike Serpa and Steve Nagle were unopposed and will keep their seats on the KJUHSD board. At the Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District level, trustee Karyll Smith Quinn was unopposed and will retain her seat representing area 5. Two new board members ran unopposed and will also be appointed.
For Kingsburg’s Tri-County Health Care District, votes must be counted from three areas as the district falls in three counties: Kings, Fresno and Tulare counties. So far, Gary Nelson is in the lead, followed by incumbent Arlie Rogers and Bruce Blayney for the three available seats.
On Election Night, precinct inspector Suzanne Okamura said the stream of residents coming in to vote at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Selma had been steady since they opened at 7 a.m.
“It really started getting busy about 4:50 p.m. when people started getting off work and it’s just been non-stop. Everyone’s very serious about this election. They want to see some change and like someone mentioned, they wouldn’t be here if they didn’t want change,” Okamura said. “I think it will be busy right up to the close.”
Lilliana Flores, 18, said she chose cast her first votes ever in an actual voting booth so she could experience the voting process that night.
“I was a little nervous because this was the first time voting, but I wanted to have that feeling to be an adult. Otherwise, I felt like this is the thing for mature people to do.”
Flores said she talked with family and friends and read ballot information to get details on the different propositions and candidates running for the various offices. She said other young people she knows don’t take voting seriously, but she thinks it a civic duty everyone should take part in.
“Some people think voting isn’t too important since they’re young. Personally, I think it something we should try out. Everyone should give it a shot.”
In Selma, Sarah Guerra and John Trujillo are the lead vote-getters running for seats on the city council.
Meanwhile, Roger Orosco and Diane Jensen lead in the race for seats representing districts three and five on the Selma Unified School District Board.
Trujillo said if retains his lead and earns a spot on City Council, one of his goals will be to unite the council and focus on growing the town.
“I want to unify our council and have us become more pro-growth. I want to get the community to rally around and start working on pro-growth issues. That’s one of my biggest concerns. Development is the answer to everything.”
In the Selma Unified School District race, Montijo is making a shift from her seat on the City Council to represent district three on the school. Currently, she’s trailing Orosco by 60 votes.
“Win or lose there’s going to be a silver lining,” she said of her willingness to keep volunteering in some capacity in town. “Even though I’m not on council, I was the first Latina that’s ever been successful at a run for city council. As a result of that, we now have three Latinas running with serious contention to really be in there. That’s amazing, so who knows? We may actually end up with one or two women on there. That’s going to be pretty awesome.”
One of the highest vote-getters in Selma’s Health Care District race is Anthony Herrera. In second place is incumbent Leticia Gallardo and Colleen Nelson is third for the three open seats. Nelson has served on the board previously.
Herrera said he was appreciative of his family’s and supporters’ confidence in his bid.
“I am blessed to have [my wife Theresa] by my side. I sincerely thank all who voted for me and those who asked friends and family to also vote for me. It really means a lot. Thank you.”
He’s also amazed at the number of votes he’s received thus far.
“I felt I was the unknown underdog [since] the other candidates are current or past board members. How did I really think I was going to win? I hoped I would, but I didn’t think I would.”
Herrera said he wants to see tax funds the health care board oversees spent more directly on the community’s health needs.
“I would like to see proposals presented to the board that positively benefit the citizens in our community - men, women and children - in a direct way, not in a way that we have to somehow justify a link to health and wellness.”
His focus will be on such issues as mental health education and resources and partnering with other agencies to provide free flu shots for the elderly and uninsured.
“Ultimately I would like to see a community health center in Selma.”
Kingsburg City Council
Jewel Hurtado: 34.46% (184)
Staci Smith: 38.20% (204)
Nathan Williams: 27.15% (145)
Melissa Bethel: 28.20% (119)
Vince Palomar: 49.05% (207)
Sirina R. Resendez: 22.75% (96)
Kingsburg Joint Union High School District (From Tulare, Kings and Fresno Counties)
Brent Lunde: (348)
Corina Mendoza: (214)
Kingsburg Tri-County Health Care District (From Tulare, Kings and Fresno Counties)
Bruce Blayney: (1,583)
Tiffany Dix: (1,508)
Gary Nelson: (2,002)
Arlie Rogers: (1,795)
Glenn Snyder: (1,162)
Selma City Council
Rosemary Alanis: 14.81% (784)
Joel Fedor: 10.35% (548)
Sarah Guerra: 30.05% (1,591)
Mike ‘Cheezer’ Munoz: 10.73% (568)
Theresa Guzman Salas: 14.05% (744)
Johnny L. Trujillo: 19.68% (1,042)
Selma Unified School District
Yvette Montijo: 31.91% (336)
Roger Orosco: 37.61% (396)
Regina Pallares: 30.39% (320)
Diane Jensen: 53.97% (435)
Annmarie Summers: 44.67% (360)
Selma Health Care District
Linda Esquivel: 16.17% (1,320)
Leticia Gallardo: 19.56% (1,597)
Anthony Herrera: 26.94% (2,199)
Andy Montijo: 14.28% (1,166)
Colleen Nelson: 22.82% (1,863)