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Like others, superintendent surprised by Van Loenen's ouster

Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten. Star-Observer file photo

Like most who follow the trials and triumphs of the local school district, Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten was surprised at the primary defeat of School Board President Barb Van Loenen. On the other hand, she's ready to work with whoever is elected to the board in April.

Van Loenen will complete her term on the board this month. A new president will be selected by the board after the new school board is seated in April.

"We know there will be at least one new board member," Bowen-Eggebraaten said. "It could be two or three. We'll have wait and see."

The superintendent, however, had high praise for Van Loenen's stint on the board and her role as president.

"Barb is a strong leader, great at building consensus and great as an advisor to me," Bowen-Eggebraaten said. "She comes from a strong business background and had the ability to take a topic and get to the core/key elements.

"She is fiscally conservative, yet understands the value of education and what it means to students and parents. She brought a good balance and represented the community well.

"I'm disappointed that the voters did not recognize that."

When asked why incumbents did not draw better support in the primary, Bowen-Eggebraaten attributed the outcome to a relatively small vote sample.

"The results represent the people who voted. With a low voter turnout the key is who can motivate their supporters," Bowen-Eggebraaten said. "The incumbents were not campaigning much and that may have hurt them."

She also said the vote is a "sign of the times."

"If you look at the top two, they represent very different points of view," Bowen-Eggebraaten said. "I think some of the polarizing activities around the country and in Madison probably had an impact on this election."

When asked if the outcome was an indictment against the upcoming referendum to purchase the dog track property, Bowen-Eggebraaten said she was not sure.

"With the small voter turnout we may tend to over-analyze this thing," Bowen-Eggebraaten said. "We shouldn't read other things into the outcome. I don't know if this vote represents the community. The vote in April will be the indicator.

"We don't have any polls. All I know is that we continue to get a lot of positive feedback on acquiring the dog track property."

Bowen-Eggebraaten said she, of course, expects a much high voter turnout for the April 3 election.

According to school district numbers, the total number of district voters in the Feb. 21 primary was 1,629. Poll records show that there are 18,957 voters on district poll lists. Essentially, 8.6 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

The city of Hudson had the strongest voter turnout in the primary with 11.3 percent of eligible voters casting ballots; North Hudson recorded 8.2 percent, while the turnout was lowest in the towns: Hudson (6.2 percent), St. Joseph (6.2 percent) and Troy (6.8 percent).