Tlapa has made a strong point

Regardless of the outcome of the recount of the Milford School Board election – scheduled for today, Thursday, March 21 – no one will be able to take away from Holleigh Tlapa the fact that more than 800 of her fellow residents took the time and the effort to write in her name.

On the surface, that seems like a small chore but most people, when they enter the voting booth, simply check off a name – it’s what we’re used to doing and there the names are, right in front of them.

But on the Milford ballot, Tlapa’s name was nowhere to be found because she had only decided to run after the filing deadline had closed. And run she did. Those who know Tlapa know that she doesn’t lack energy and she put it into this race for school board. It paid off in what, as we write this, is a victory. But it was narrow – only a dozen votes over Len Mannino and only 15 over Bob Willette – so today’s recount could overturn it. The votes are so close that either Willette or Mannino could regain his seat. Not both, however, because another newcomer, Michael Hannon, beat all of them by more than 300 votes.

If it does, it does, but it won’t diminish what Tlapa accomplished and what Milford voters said of themselves by taking the time to write her in. Because there was no “Holleigh Tlapa” line on the ballot, they had to find the “Write-in” line and actually do it.

Tlapa has said her primary reason for running was her concern over the way Superintendent Jessica Huizenga was hired, as well as some of her decisions. She praised the superintendent for some of her ideas, but said many residents “feel blindsided by the way she was hired.”

The school board had hired Huizenga first on an interim basis and then, after seeing her work over a period of a few months, skipped what board Chairman Ron Carvell said would a time-consuming and costly search for candidates because the board was impressed by Huizenga.

Tlapa didn’t dispute that, but launched her bid for the board because of the lack of public discussion. Clearly, more than 800 Milford voters saw it her way.

School officials need strong support from the public, if for no other reason than the public gets to vote on their budget, but also because strong public support speaks well of a school system and a strong school system is vital for the health of a community and its children.

If 800-plus people don’t like the board’s hiring process, one can also infer that they will have Huizinga under a microscope and that’s not a comfortable position.

However this recount turns out, Tlapa has made a strong point, one emphasized by the fact that she wasn’t the only newcomer to win a seat – she and Hannon pushed Manninno and Willette, out, at least for now.

And if the recount were to confirm Tlapa’s victory – Hannon’s is secure – it will be interesting to see her in action on the school board. She will speak her mind and leave no doubt about her points of view.