IMBLER — The Imbler School Board election is the hottest in Union County.
Two of its three races this year are contested, those for positions 3 and 5. No other Union County school board has more than than one contested race.
Three candidates are running for Position 3, and two are vying for Position 5. Neither incumbent for those seats is running for reelection.
Position 3 candidates are Bud Whitcomb, the owner and operator of a custom body and paint shop; Tim Phelps, a sales and marketing director; and Joseph “Joe” Fisher Jr., a building official. The race for Position 5 is between Jason Beck, a rancher, and Lavar Bowles, a project manager for a construction company.
Position 4 also is up for election, where incumbent Pam Glenn is running uncontested.
Beck and Bowles each grew up in the Grande Ronde Valley. Bowles is a 1981 graduate of Union High School, and Beck is a 2005 Imbler High School graduate.
Beck said he is running because he wants to make sure the district continues to address the issues that parents of Imbler students are concerned about.
“I want to help our voices to be heard,” he said.
Beck and his wife, Mary, are the parents of two children who attend school in the Elgin School District. The rancher said one of the Imbler School District's strengths is its small size, which results in students getting more attention. He also is impressed with the school district’s faculty.
“We have a great group of teachers,” said Beck, who said the same was true when he was an Imbler student.
The candidate, who has a bachelor’s of science degree in rangeland ecology and management, said he wants the school district to continue to have a strong vocational program for students not going to college. Beck said he would like to see the school district bring in more people, such as plumbers and welders, to talk with students about careers in their fields.
“Vocational skills are incredibly important,” he said.
Bowles said he was inspired to run because he believes the school district should continue offering a strong education program that focuses on fundamentals.
“I want to make sure the students receive a fundamental education and not one based on social, political or social agendas,” Bowles said.
He said that to receive a fundamental education is to be taught both sides of history. Bowles said it is important that students are shown what leaders did correctly, as well as when they made missteps.
“We learn from our mistakes as much as our successes,” Bowles said.
The candidate said he is impressed with Imbler’s teachers and parents. He credited both with caring deeply about the students of the Imbler School District.
Bowles has a bachelor’s of science degree in construction management from Brigham Young University and an associate’s degree in general students from BYU-Idaho, formerly named Ricks College. Bowles and his wife, Nanette, are the parents of two children, one is a 10th grader in the Imbler School District and the other is an eighth grader.
Ballots for the mail election must be returned to the Union County Clerk’s Office by May 18. Ballots can be mailed in or placed in ballot drop boxes. Drop boxes are outside at city halls in Cove, Elgin, Imbler, North Powder and Union. La Grande has outdoor drop boxes at Cook Memorial Library and at the Union County Clerk’s Office. A third La Grande drop box is indoors at the Union County Clerk’s Office.