Yakima School Board candidates 2021

Yakima County School Board candidates, from left, Graciela Villanueva, Kenton Gartrell, Donald Joseph Davis Jr. and Ryan Beckett.


Graciela Villanueva and Ryan Beckett won the races for Positions 1 and 2 on the Yakima school board, respectively, Tuesday night.

In the Sunnyside school board race, Linda Roberts won its only truly contested race. In Selah, Joe Catron and Jamie Morford won their races, after their two opponents ended their campaigns in mid-October. In West Valley, Michael Thorner won the single contested school board race. In Toppenish, the contested race was too close to call.

School board members serve four-years terms and are not paid.

Yakima school board

Incumbent Graciela Villanueva won in the race for the Position 1 seat on the board with 2,927 votes, or 55.95% total, Tuesday night. Her opponent, small business owner Kenton Gartrell, had 2,304, or 44.05% of the vote, Tuesday.

Villanueva works as the head of human resources for the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic. This will be her fourth term on the Yakima school board, where she serves as vice president.

She ran on a campaign that highlighted her previous work on the board, including her work developing the district’s strategic plan.

Ryan Beckett was leading in the race for the Position 2 seat on the board, with 3,518 votes, or 67.45% of the total, Tuesday night. His opponent, incumbent Donald Joseph Davis Jr., had 1,698 votes, or 32.55% total, Tuesday.

“I’m very encouraged. I’m very excited,” Beckett said Tuesday night. “It’s surreal to be at the end of a long campaign like this and to have a nice positive result is very exciting.”

Beckett said he is looking forward to being a part of the conversation and encouraged community members to stay engaged in local education.

Beckett, a real estate broker, spent eight years on the Yakima School Foundation, serving as president for two years.

He ran on a campaign of getting students back to in-person learning, focusing on academics and highlighting the district’s achievements. According to the state Public Disclosure commission, his campaign raised $12,469.

Selah school board

Joe Catron and Jamie Morford won the races for the District 2 seat and the at-large positions 1 seat on the Selah school board, respectively Tuesday night.

Their opponents, Scott and Nicole Church, ended their campaigns in mid-October. Scott and Nicole Church ran for the District 2 seat and the at-large Position 1 seat, respectively. The Churches, who are married, plan to move out of the school district.

The decision to move was made after the deadline to withdraw from the election had already passed, so the pair remained on the ballot in their respective races.

Catron won the District 2 race with 1,598 votes, or 64.2% of the vote. Scott Church had 891 votes, or 35.8% total.

“I am feeling gratitude for the opportunity and look forward to open, honest discourse with our constituents focused on serving our students the best we can,” Catron said Tuesday night.

Catron works as the vice president of Yakima Chief Ranches.

Incumbent Jamie Morford won the at-large Position 1 on the board with 1,402 votes, or 56.46% total, Tuesday night. Nicole Church had 1,081 votes, or 43.53% total.

Morford works as the vice president at Central Washington Insurance Agency in Selah.

The Selah totals are from Yakima County. The Selah School District also includes a small number of voters in Kittitas County.

Sunnyside school board

Newcomer Linda Roberts won the race for the District 2 position on the Sunnyside school board with 701 votes, or 67.53% total, Tuesday night. Her opponent, longtime board member Michelle Emery Perry, had 337 votes, or 32.47% total, Tuesday.

“I wish to thank the community of Sunnyside for speaking out,” Roberts said in a prepared statement Tuesday night. “Thank you to the voters and the many individuals who offered such generous campaign support. I look forward to serving on the Sunnyside school board, representing a whole community. We have some work ahead of us.”

Roberts is a retired director of educational programs and this will be her first publicly elected position.

Current board member Jill Patterson retained her District 3 seat after running unopposed. She had 839 votes Tuesday.

Current board member Stephen Berg won the District 5 seat with 739 votes, or 75.03% of the total, Tuesday. Berg was appointed to the seat in August after Timothy Lemos left the position. Lemos appeared as a candidate on the ballot, but had discontinued his campaign, according to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. Lemos had 246 votes, or 24.97% of the total Tuesday.

Toppenish school board

Rosa Ortiz was leading in the race for the District 5 position on the Toppenish school board with 279 votes, or 51.38% of the vote Tuesday night. Her opponent, John Ramos, followed close behind with 264 votes, or 48.62% of the vote Tuesday.

“It’s looking good, but I’m not out of the woods yet,” Ortiz said Tuesday night. She also thanked the voters and said she hoped to serve the district and the students well.

Ortiz is a program coordinator at the Yakima Valley Farmworkers Clinic.

Ramos could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Incumbent Rebecca Perez secured her District 2 seat after running unopposed in this election. She received 464 votes, or 100% of the total, Tuesday night.

West Valley school board

Incumbent Michael Thorner won the race for the District 2 seat on the West Valley School with 2,960 votes, or 59.5% of the total, Tuesday night. His opponent, Karly Almon, had 2,015 votes, or 40.5% of the vote, Tuesday night.

“Grateful for what looks like an opportunity to serve our community for a third term,” Thorner said Tuesday night.

Thorner highlighted the district’s goals for equity and inclusion in his campaign

Current board President Mark A. Strong secured his District 3 seat after running unopposed. He had 3,646 votes, or 100% of the vote, Tuesday night.

West Valley School District has a new superintendent this year. Peter Finch assumed the role after serving as interim superintendent following the departure of Michael Brophy. Brophy had been placed on administrative leave following possible policy violations and he and the school board reached a separation agreement in July.

School board members work with the superintendent to guide the district’s future and goals, according to board policy.

Contact Vanessa Ontiveros at vontiveros@yakimaherald.com.

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