Sitka had very few doubts about its two candidates for school board. In an unchallenged race, Elias Erickson and Dionne Brady-Howard won ballots from almost every single voter, with 1,460 and 1,447 votes respectively.
At 18-years of age, Elias Erickson is the youngest Sitkan to win elected office in recent memory. He says he’s spent the last couple of months trying to make sure voters know where he stands on the major issues facing the school board.
After the numbers were in Tuesday night, he told KCAW listeners that his message resonated with voters who wanted to see his demographic on the board.
“I think student representation was a big deal. Just having somebody on the board who sees a lot of the effects of policies on ground zero — I’m sort of being that inside guy, who sees how things are going. And also as somebody who has relationships with students and teachers. I can use those to gauge policy decisions.”
Erickson says there were times when he felt people might doubt him because of his age, but his strong showing has eased those worries. If anyone still has doubts, he’s prepared to deal with them.
“If people think that I’m not going to be effective as an 18-year old then I’ve just got to keep reading and prove them wrong, and try to make sure that I’m doing the best job I can, and that I’m just as informed and educated as any other school board member.”
Erickson served last year on the board as the representative of the Sitka High Student Government, a seat which goes annually to the vice-president of that body.
Dionne Brady-Howard is also an incumbent. She was appointed last fall. During her campaign to win a full three-year term she said that she’s heeded the advice for new board members from the Alaska Association of School Boards, and spent most of her time listening and learning.
Tuesday night she watched election returns from Harrigan Centennial Hall. However, it was during a school board meeting earlier in the evening that Brady-Howard broke her self-imposed silence and brought her campaign message to the table.
She said that school districts statewide were at a crossroads.
“Anyone who wants anything is going to have to make an argument that it’s worth the state’s money, and it’s worth peoples’ Permanent Fund Dividend. And I say that because almost everyone frames everything in the context of whether they’re getting a dividend — whether or not they’re getting enough of a dividend — and so I’m kind of thinking that we’re entering a time in our advocacy when we’re going to have to think bigger.”
She wants use the gathering of the Alaska Association of School Boards…
“To be spreading a bigger message about the importance of public education to people who don’t have kids. The importance of education in a larger community. The importance of public education to a state that’s going to be facing even bigger financial woes as time passes. To be problem solvers. Because a lot of these problems we’re going to have, we’re not going to solve, it’s going to be up to the next generation. I don’t know that everybody sees the big picture.”
Brady-Howard and Erickson will be sworn in to the Sitka School Board during a special meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, October 17.