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. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

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. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

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

The incumbent candidate has earned nearly 60 percent of initial tally

SEQUIM — Jim Stoffer is closing on winning re-election to his Sequin School District Board of Directors’ Position 3 seat, with a 1,200-vote lead over challenger Beth Smithson after initial ballot counts Tuesday night.

Initial general election results on Nov. 5 show Stoffer with 3,921 votes, or about 59 percent of the 6,606 total votes cast for the position, with Smithson getting 2,667 votes, or a little more than 40 percent.

In Clallam County, Stoffer had 3,865 votes to Smithson’s 2,624 votes, and led among the few Jefferson County voters within the district boundaries, 56-43.

The Clallam County Auditor’s Office planned another count of ballots in the all-mail election late Wednesday. Those totals are not reflected here because of press deadlines. Jefferson County will count again on Friday.

“When I first ran four years ago,” Stoffer said on Tuesday night, “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.”

Beth Smithson

Beth Smithson

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 to 1,722-vote lead among Clallam County voters and 50 to 23 votes in Jefferson County.

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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Conor Dowley is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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