New faces win seats

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

By the time votes were tallied Tuesday night at the Ellis County Courthouse, most of the children playing four-square and soccer outside on the lawn were heading home.

But inside the courthouse, it was a whole different ballgame as many of the kids' parents found themselves newly elected leaders.

Unofficial results of the Hays City Commission and Hays USD 489 Board of Education elections came in at approximately 9 p.m. signaling significant changes, particularly on the school board.

Candidates winning the three seats on the board of education were Lance Bickle with 1,767 votes, Josh Waddell with 1,668 votes, and Danielle Robben with 1,387 votes.

Incumbent Richard Kraemer received 956 votes, and Kathleen Fischer received 728 votes.

As final voting numbers came in, Waddell and Bickle discussed what lies ahead for them.

"I'm definitely excited to get on," Bickle said. "I think it's a couple of months until our term starts, so I think all of us that are elected will be spending a lot of time learning and trying to bring ourselves up to speed on everything."

"I'm excited to get in there and start helping out," Bickle said.

Both Bickle and Waddell agreed the campaign has been a bit "nerve-wracking," but Waddell said he was happy with the results.

"It's something I'm passionate about," Waddell said of education. "Lance and I, I think we tried to do all the right things ... talk to people ... do our part.

"This is pretty cool."

Robben said she was glad residents saw her as a positive candidate.

"I'm looking forward to working with the current school board members as well as the other candidates," she said. "I think we're going to be a great team.

"We have a lot to learn, but we're willing to do it."

Incumbent Richard Kraemer, who has served on the board of education 12 years, congratulated the winning candidates.

"They ran and worked hard at it, and that's good," he said. "I'm optimistic and encouraged that young folks like that who are qualified take the time to provide the service."

He said he had no regrets about his time on the board and hoped he had made positive contributions the district.

"Some pretty important decisions were made, from closing some schools to letting the superintendent go," he said. "I know they're not always the most popular decisions, but my guide for the last 12 years has been to provide a quality education for every child in every classroom every day."

For Shaun Musil, garnering second place in the city commission race gave him a sense that "all the work was worth it."

"I was working up until the last day," he said. "My kids and I were out campaigning yesterday."

Musil finished second with 1,493 votes, behind Eber Phelps who had 1,503 votes. Musil and Phelps will receive four-year terms. Mellick, who finished third with 1,479 votes, will receive a two-year term.

Todd Gabel received 1,242 votes, and Dominic Pianalto received 312 votes.

While waiting for the last precinct votes to come in, Musil thanked Mellick for pitching in to help his campaign efforts.

"I wouldn't be where I am if it wasn't for him," Musil said of Mellick.

Mellick said he was grateful to voters for giving him another term, enabling him to continue efforts to keep the city on a pay-as-you go system.

Although Musil edged slightly ahead of Mellick by 14 votes, Mellick said that didn't trouble him.

"When I was out campaigning, I told everybody to vote for Shaun. He's a good kid," Mellick said. "I came in third, but I feel good about it."

Although he's spent a number of election nights at the courthouse, Mellick said it was unusual to see so many young parents and their children inside and outside the courthouse during the evening.

"It's really good to see these 40-year-olds getting involved, not only in the city but school board," Mellick said.

Only 24 votes separated the first and third vote-getters in the commission race. Phelps said that is proof "every vote counts."

"When I looked at the slate of candidates for both the city and school board race, it was really good to see such a strong slate of candidates," Phelps said.

"There were qualified, well-intentioned people running.

"I think that says a lot for our community. With that in mind, I figured the race would be close and obviously the city race was. To finish where I did, I was very humbled and very honored."

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In a tight race, longtime Ellis Mayor David McDaniel was unseated Tuesday by Ellis City Council member Lyle Johnston. Johnston won the mayor's position by a tally of 234 to 225.