Five community members have stepped forward to fill three available seats on the Jefferson City School Board, with an election slated on April 8.
Two of the five - John Ruth and Tami Turner - are incumbents who hope to serve their second and fourth terms, respectively. Ken Theroff, is a newcomer to the Board of Education since he was appointed to fill Marie People's seat last November. A fourth candidate - Harold Coots - is running his second campaign for a seat on the board. A fifth candidate, Steve Bruce, is launching his first campaign.
Once elected, the three winners will be sworn into office on April 14 and will serve three years on the board.
Stephen Bruce works in fiscal management and administrative services for the state Division of Developmental Disabilities.
He has a master's degree from the University of Missouri and an undergraduate degree in criminal justice from Columbia College. He is married to Kim Bruce. The couple has two children, ages 7 and 9, enrolled in North Elementary School.
Serving on the district's Facilities Long Range Planning Committee, Bruce said school board leaders are going to have to evaluate the district's resources in relationship with its needs.
"It's been my impression that people are passionate about education in our community," he said, noting the community has been engaged in rigorous discussion about the future of the public schools over the past year.
"That's important," he added. "There are a lot of smart people thinking" about the district's challenges "and if we can bring folks together, we'll be more successful."
Bruce noted his "character and faith" inform the decisions he makes.
"It's important that folks try to contribute to their community, and that's what I hope to do," he said.
Born and raised in Cole County, Harold Coots lives on the western edge of the Jefferson City school district.
Coots graduated from Central Missouri State University in 1982 with a bachelor's of science degree in drafting technology. A state employee for 28 years, he is a registered architect who oversees projects for the Division of Facilities Management, Design and Construction.
He is a leader for Boy Scouts of America Troop 5, which meets at Central United Church of Christ. He is also a member of the Shriners and Russellville Baptist Church.
Coots is married to Lisa Coots, also a Cole County native. Together, they have three children. Their oldest daughter graduated from Helias Catholic High School; their middle son graduated from JCHS and their youngest son is a sophomore at JCHS. All three attended grade school at Cedar Hill Elementary School.
"I plan on staying in the area and would like the school system to be something everyone is proud to call their alma mater," he said.
Incumbent John Ruth is native of Jefferson City and a graduate of Jefferson City High School and the University of Missouri.
He works as a financial adviser with Wallstreet Group. In addition to serving the public schools, he also serves on the Jefferson City YMCA's board of directors and is a member of the Capital Region Medical Center board of governors.
Ruth appreciates his first term of service on the board and is excited about the prospect of a second. "I am grateful to our community for allowing me the opportunity to serve our students and our district," he wrote.
Ruth said he believes high expectations, a focus on fundamentals and character development will be the building blocks of students' future success. "A wide spectrum of students appeal to us to help them become better people," he said. "It's our job to ensure that they all, regardless of their circumstances, graduate as self-reliant, accountable and productive individuals, ready to tackle the quickly changing landscape of our time."
Ruth is married to Kasey Ruth. They have two young daughters and attend Faith Lutheran Church.
Theroff is the president and CEO of Jefferson Bank, an affiliate of Central Bank. He has a degree from Westminster College. He is married to Suzie Luetkemeyer Theroff. The couple has three children ages 11 through 15, all of whom attend area Catholic schools.
As both a graduate of Jefferson City High School and the father of kids in the parochial schools, Theroff said he's "definitely been involved in both" public and private schools in the region.
"We have, for a long time, had very strong public and parochial schools. I think we can all agree it's good for our economy, good for our business community and good for our citizens to have strong public schools," he said.
Theroff said his children attend parochial schools because his wife, Suzie, is a devout Catholic and a Helias graduate herself. Theroff sees his connection to the parochial schools as a strength. "I think it will lead to improving relationships within the community. And I think it's good to have that perspective on the board," he said.
Theroff said his background in business and banking gives him some insight into how to lead the district.
"There are some big decisions to be made. I'm excited by the opportunity to possibly add some value, based on my background in business. It's a crucial time in our community," Theroff said.
Tami Turner, who serves as president of the Board of Education, calls herself a "Jefferson City kid who believes in public education."
She is the publisher of Jefferson City Magazine.
She served as the co-chair for the 2000 Levy to Improve Teacher Salaries campaign, and she has held many PTA and PTO posts over the past several years. She has also served on the Jefferson City Public Schools Foundation board.
She said this will be her fourth and last campaign for office, but she wants to run once more because "we have so much unfinished that needs to happen," including solving the district's space crunch.
"Every one of our buildings is at or beyond full capacity and the the largest class sizes are grades K-4," she added.
Turner has three children - ages 23, 21 and 15 - who have attended, or are currently attending, Jefferson City public schools.