2 incumbents, challenger elected to JC school board

Two incumbents and a challenger were elected to the Jefferson City Board of Education in Tuesday’s election.

According to an unofficial totals reported from the Cole County and Callaway County Clerk’s Offices, the three winners were Ken Theroff with 2,846 votes (26.7 percent), followed by John Ruth with 2,186 votes (20.5 percent) and political newcomer Steve Bruce with 2,160 votes (20.3 percent).

With 1,650 votes (15.5 percent), Board of Education President Tami Turner did not receive enough votes to retain her seat on the board. In his second unsuccessful bid for a seat on the board, Harold Coots earned 1,764 votes (16.3 percent).

Theroff attributed his win to the help of “good friends” who worked hard to get his name before the public.

Theroff said his campaign held one fundraiser that raised about $5,000, part of which was spent on signs through the community.

“It’s not a high-profile race and showing who’s out there probably helped,” Theroff said, adding he’s glad the contest is concluded. “I look forward to serving, but I don’t enjoy campaigning.”

As president and CEO of Jefferson Bank, an affiliate of Central Bank, Theroff said he ran because he feels “having a strong school system is in the best interest of our local economy and community.”

“As a banker, that’s very important to me,” he said.

Now that he’s elected, Theroff said he’s interested in setting some goals that will help Jefferson City “become more viable as a community.”

“Our community is going to go in the same direction as our educational system,” he warned.

Theroff said he’s heard other elected officials say they feel humbled when they are elected to public office, but wasn’t always convinced of their sincerity.

Now he is.

“When you think of all the people who are counting on you to make the right choices …. I understand those statements now,” he said.

A newcomer to political office, Bruce works in fiscal management and administrative services for the state Division of Developmental Disabilities.

Bruce campaigned heavily by going door-to-door throughout Jefferson City and raised about $1,500 to underwrite his campaign.

“I think those personal connections worked,” he said. “I think meeting with voters really helped motivate them to get out and go to the polls.”

During those one-on-one interactions, Bruce said, many voters wanted to know whether he supported one or two high schools. “The high school issue came up a lot,” Bruce said.

He said he tried to share with voters a consistent message of support for the work of the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee, which is working on a 20-year plan for the district’s facilities. Bruce said he told voters he wants the group to create a clear plan that the public will be willing to support.

Bruce said he’s looking forward to working with Theroff — the two men share similar views — and the rest of the board.

“I think we’ll be able to have a very productive relationship … and I look forward to getting things done,” Bruce said.

After nine years on the board, Turner wasn’t certain why voters rejected her candidacy, but she said is honored to serve for so long.

She surmised that voters are always looking for candidates with good energy and who represent change.

“And I embrace that,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed all my years of service, every single second, because I know I have given back to the community that gave to me and to my kids. I hope people recognize that our school district is strong and in good shape.”

Turner commended Bruce for stepping up to the plate.

“He’s a young father with kids in the district and that’s exactly the kind of people we need involved,” she said. “I have such respect for the Bruce family.”

For his part, Bruce was complimentary of Turner’s service.

“Tami served with courage and grace,” he said.

“Her contribution to the district is to be recognized and respected,” he said.

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