Pair wins school-board spots

Roy Woodard casts his vote Tuesday at Yucca Junior High School in District 1 for the school board election. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer

Attorney R. Max Best and business owner Lola Bryant were elected to four-year terms on the Clovis school board Tuesday. A mill levy to fund maintenance in the schools passed easily.

Best defeated four other candidates with 45 percent of the vote to win the District 1 race. He will replace outgoing board member Ken Merritt, who did not run for re-election after 16 years on the board.

Bryant, who was appointed to the board in May, defeated R.L. “Rube” Render in District 2 with 66 percent of vote.
Results are unofficial pending canvassing.

Best and Bryant will be sworn in March 1.

“The support of the community was unbelievable,” said Bryant, who handed out an estimated 60 yard signs and advertised via radio and newspaper. “I have had children call me and say ‘Mrs. Bryant what can we do to help you win? We want you in there.’”

The 48-year-old Bryant is a lifelong resident of Clovis and owner of the Foxy Drive-In on Seventh Street.

John Machado, a former teacher in the Santa Fe school system, said Bryant’s faith swayed his decision.

“She believes in God,” Machado said. “The biggest mistake we have made as a country is taking God out of the schools.”

Best, 49, is a Grady High School graduate who moved to Clovis in 1985.

“I am excited, I don’t know if you can point to any factor, maybe a little luck,” Best said.

Board members will select a new superintendent to replace Neil Nuttall, who left in November after seven years as top boss. Applications for the position are being accepted through February.

“That is on the top of the agenda,” Best said.

Jeanie Ichenberger, a friend of Best, said she voted for the Clovis-based attorney.

“He represents moral views and that is important to me,” Ichenberger said.

Voter turnout Tuesday was 9.5 percent in Clovis, up about two points from the 2001 election, the most recent to have a board election and mill levy on the ballot.

Consolidated precincts confused some voters, poll workers said.

Kendale Burch, judge at the Zia precinct, estimated one in every four voters there were sent to another precinct.

Voters passed the continuation of a mill levy that will impose a tax of $2 for every $1,000 of property to fund school capital improvements. In Clovis, where the current fiscal year tax revenue is more than $740,000 with the state contributing at more than $482,000, the levy passed by a 73-percent margin.

The tax is a continuation of one passed in 2001 by a 77-percent margin. The tax will be enforced through 2010.

“It showed confidence in our school system and a mandate to keep on doing good for kids,” said Clovis Interim School Superintendent G.C. Ross. “This money is the kind of money that replaces light bulbs, fixes plumbing and patches leaks in the roofs.”

Ross said administrators plan to use about half the money for maintenance and the rest for technology upgrades throughout the district.

A teacher at Clovis Community College, Don Hicks, said he supports the levy.

“I always vote for anything for the school,” Hicks said.
John Rollinson voted against the levy.

“The taxes are sufficiently high already. I am very conservative when it comes to raising taxes, even though the schools are a good purpose,” Rollinson said.

Grady and Melrose also passed mill levies at the same tax levels Tuesday.

Texico passed a levy in 2003 and is not scheduled to vote again on the tax until 2007.