A retired airline pilot and a businesswoman have joined the race to run for two Lewiston-Porter School Board seats being vacated by Nils Olsen and Jack Burmeister.
Neil R. Richardson, 56, and Lynn A. Garcia, 53 -- both supported by board President Edward M. Lilly, who heads up the board's conservative majority -- last week submitted their petitions to run for office.
If they win, the board's four-member conservative bloc would continue to hold the majority on the seven-member board.
School officials said that four other potential candidates have picked up petitions but that they had not turned them in as of late last week. They include former board President James Leighton, who was defeated in a re-election attempt last May. This year's board elections will be held May 17.
The petition deadline is 5 p.m. today.
Lilly said he is backing Garcia and Richardson because "they are smart, fiscally conservative and can make practical decisions."
Garcia said she decided to run to help find ways of doing things more efficiently and to enhance school programs to the point where "students do so well, they can get into the colleges of their choice."
"I think we need leadership and less animosity within the district," she said. "I'm hoping to help improve community relations and soften the polarity we've seen here over the years. . . . I think people are pretty tired of it. And I don't think (the constant strife) makes for a better school system."
Garcia said she is in favor of making innovations and cutting costs, "but I'm not interested in throwing the baby out with the bath water. I'm not opposed to spending money, but I am opposed to wasting it."
She said she has spent most of her life in business and that she owns two companies -- Globe-Lynx Group, an international business development consulting company, and Sample First Corp., a trade show services and marketing company.
Richardson said one reason he is running is, "I'm alarmed at the property tax increases -- up to 14 percent -- people had to pay this year. A lot of people were affected. I could tell that was a primary concern for people as I was circulating my petitions."
But, he said, his primary reason for running is to make sure the education of children comes first.
"One does not want to lose sight of that," said Richardson, a retired airline pilot.
He also said Lewiston-Porter United Teachers has been backing people for the board who appear more interested with teacher concerns than fiscal responsibility and the greater good of the district. As a result, he said, the board in the past has been "fiscally irresponsible and has been spending more money than is justified" on salaries and benefits.
It appears that the district spends 79 percent of its revenues on employees, he said, compared with some districts that spend closer to 70 percent.