Two new faces were elected to the Abbotsford board of education on Saturday night, resulting in six-year incumbent Uultsje DeJong being ousted.
Of the seven available seats, five went to the remaining incumbents, and two went to newcomers Rhonda Pauls and Stan Petersen.
Topping the polls was Cindy Schafer, the current chair, who won her third three-year term.
“I’m pleasantly surprised … I never take anything for granted,” Schafer said after the win.
The only incumbent not to to seek re-election was Joanne Field, leaving the field open for at least one newcomer. However, DeJong’s 10th-place finish – out of 15 candidates – left another gap for a first-timer.
Petersen, retired after more than 33 years as a teacher and administrator in Abbotsford, easily filled one of those positions, taking second spot behind Schafer.
He said it was a surprise to finish so high in the polls, and he was “honoured and flattered.” He attributed his strong finish to “great support from awesome people.”
“I’m pretty active in the community, and I think that definitely helped.”
Pauls, a mom of six, is the former president of the District Parents’ Advisory Council and is active in numerous school and sports organizations and committees.
She credits her election win, in part, to strong support from students who, although they weren’t eligible to vote, spread the word that she was a viable candidate.
“I really felt like the students supported me and, win or lose, that meant a lot to me.”
DeJong said although he is disappointed he was not re-elected, he is optimistic about the future of the education system in Abbotsford.
“Sure, I’d love to be on the board still, but there are some great people who have been elected and some good people still on the board … The district will be in great hands.”
DeJong said he is not sure if he will seek another term in three years, but he will continue to work at ensuring that “the most vulnerable and at-risk children … are still being looked after.”
The poll results were: Schafer (12,087 votes), Petersen (11,630), Korky Neufeld (11,215), Shirley Wilson (11,189), Pauls (10,962), John Sutherland (10,870) and Preet Rai (10,793).