Challengers Lindsey Rowden and Ken Enloe have won the two available seats on the Board of Education for Jefferson City Public Schools, defeating incumbents Michael Couty and Pam Murray.
The race in Cole and Callaway counties was close. Rowden won with 26.4 percent of the vote for candidates on the ballot, followed by Enloe with 26.3 percent, Couty with 23.9 percent and Murray with 23.3 percent. Put another way, Rowden received 2,448 votes; Enloe, 2,436; Couty, 2,217; and Murray, 2,162.
Murray and Couty have each served one term on the school board — elected in 2015 as promised agents of change at a tumultuous time in the district.
All the candidates this year have said the district has improved under the leadership of Superintendent Larry Linthacum. The district's annual state assessment score has improved for two consecutive years, and a significant majority of voters last April agreed to support the district's two high school projects — build Capital City High School and extensively renovate Jefferson City High School.
Voters this year narrowly decided they want new people at the helm as the district continues to evolve.
"The district is ready to see some positive change, and people absolutely realize the momentum the district and board has had, and are ready to take it to the next level," Rowden said.
She said the fact she's a parent of children who are currently students in the district "really set me apart and gives me a unique perspective on challenges the district may be going through." She added she had made it a point to engage with parents during her campaign, through social media and at parent-teacher association meetings.
She also said school safety is something on a lot of parents' minds, and that was her top issue during her campaign.
Enloe said he was pleased voters endorsed the message he had tried to communicate — "bringing positive leadership to the board."
He said he didn't have any particular strategy and didn't target any particular area during his campaign.
He did credit his and Rowden's leadership roles during the campaign last year to pass the two high school projects' ballot issues as strengths that helped them in this election.
"Obviously, (there are) some major decisions that have to be made," he said of the work on those projects. "I'm excited about the possibility of getting to work."
Both incumbents offered their congratulations to the winners.
"I thought that I ran a good campaign, but I congratulate the two winners," Couty said, "and I wish them the best of luck."
Murray added: "I have the utmost respect for the voters, and I just wish the new board and the entire school community good luck."
When asked what they made of the voters going against the two incumbents, Couty said: "I think that's the luck of the draw in a small turnout."
And, Murray said: "That's just the voters' choice."
Rowden and Enloe won a close race in Cole County — Rowden in the lead with 26.5 percent of the vote and Enloe with 26.1 percent. Couty had 24.2 percent, and Murray 22.7 percent.
Murray won the most votes across the Missouri River in the Callaway County areas that vote in JCPS elections, but it wasn't enough to give her an advantage in the race overall.
The tally of Cole County absentee votes first showed Murray in the lead with 25.9 percent of the absentee vote, but Enloe and Rowden were close behind at a tie for 25.1 percent of the vote each. Couty had 23.3 percent.
Jefferson City's five wards have 14 precincts. Rowden won enough votes for a seat in nine precincts; Murray and Couty in seven precincts; and Enloe in five.
All but one of the Jefferson City precincts Murray did best in were in Wards 1 and 2; Enloe primarily did best in precincts in Ward 4 and 5. Couty and Rowden carried precincts scattered throughout the city.
Enloe and Rowden carried many of the outlying areas of Cole County that still vote in JCPS elections — Apache Flats, CC General, Expressway Rentals, Scott Station, Centertown and St. Martins.
Rowden and Couty carried JC Fairgrounds, Taos voters favored Enloe and Murray, and JCPS election voters in Wardsville selected Murray and Couty.
There were 44 votes for write-in JCPS board candidates in Cole County, and one write-in vote in Callaway County.