Friday, January 25, 2013

An Election To Remember

Well hello to all of you out there in the blogging world! Yes! I am alive! Yes! I do still plan on giving my opinions on adoption! Yes! I have made a plan and resolution to come here at least twice a week (maybe more) to chat with you and catch up on all that is going on in this complex triad of adoption. But first, allow me to explain my absence.

Earlier in the summer of 2012, I made a decision to run for the local School Board. I have never liked politics, nor would I ever consider myself to be a politician. But wheter you run for City Council, President or School Board that is what you become: a Politician.

So after much consideration and conversations with my husband I pulled papers to run for not only the Elementary Board, but also throw my hat in the ring for the New Unified Board should one come to be. You see, on our local ballot this past November was a measure to Unify our Elementary schools with our local High School. The voters spoke and Unification was passed. AND, the morning after the election I was on that new Unified Board by one vote. ONE VOTE! So, the tedious process of counting all the provisional ballots and absentee ballots to determine if I was really the winner, or if my opponent would pull ahead and take the seat.

The counting began and all it did was push me further and further out of reach of my new endeavour. The first semi official recount had me 30 votes behind my opponent. The second semi official count had me 46 behind my opponent. The third count had me 19 votes behind, this was a pick up in votes but still had me trailing for the last seat. I had accepted that I may not win that seat, and chalked the past three months up to experience. You see, I had no committee behind me, I had no signs in people's yard and I had no real experience in governance of school unlike all the other candidate running with me. I went door to door, talked to people, talked during my book fairs and let my past service speak for itself. I was not disappointed at all. I received a LOT of votes just based on what people knew of my many volunteering hats I wore. I was thrilled that people actually voted for me to be honest, especially when you consider I did not thrown a ton of money at my campaign. I figured if people wanted to vote for me based on all the good intentions I had, then they would.

So, the end of November comes and with it a chance to attend the California School Board Association Conference in San Francisco because after all, I was still seated on the Elementary Board starting in December. So I packed my bags, feeling like a big girl going to a prom because for many years now I have just been a mom. Sweatpants. Tennis shoes. Hair in a ponytail. But this time I had pantyhose, high heeled shoes, pretty dresses and professional attire for a very grown up conference. I was loving the fact that I was out there ready to make a difference. Unbeknownst to me, the final count of votes was to be released while we were at the conference so finally one of us candidates would know who would be serving on the new Board.

It was Thursday, November 29th in rainy San Francisco when I walked to the convention center to attend the classes I had an interest in. The first half of the day went by without any fan fare. Met some great people, sat in some classes that I had no idea what the hell they were talking about because there are as many acronyms in Education as there are stars in the sky! I took notes feverishly and tried my very best to follow what they were saying. Lunch came. I met up with the other Board Members and we went to Mel's Diner which was a hoot! While there, I get a call from the District Office of Education telling me that the results would be released that day and if I should win the seat, the swearing in ceremony would be in less than a week. Exciting! After lunch, we all went back to general session to hear the Keynote Speaker. (To save time but to toot this guy's brilliance, you can see a touch of Shawn Achor here on Ted. AMAZING motivation for happiness!)

Eight is a magic number

The trade show floor was large, bright and full of free things. Take a pencil. Take a book. Need a planner? I have buttons! I was thrilled to be there, learning, networking, again ... being a big girl. I had made my rounds and decided to leave the show to take a break and peer down the street to catch a glimpse of AT&T Park, home of the Giants. As I left I ran into the man whom I was in the race with for the last seat. He's a good guy, kind and very respectful of people. We discussed when we would meet up to attend the dinner we were invited to that evening. No tension. Nothing that would say these two people are neck and neck in a tight race for the last seat on a Historical Election. (Unification had been in the works for years, and the last time a district did unify in the county was three decades ago.) We parted ways, he and his entourage to the far door for a taxi, me to the nearest door for fresh air and brick house for baseball delight. I heard my name. I looked around but there was no one I recognized. I kept walking. This time it was louder and more deliberate..."KELSEY! KELSEY!" I turned to see way back on the trade show floor the Superintendent of our district running with his phone in the air. I stopped, baffled, worried that something terrible had happened. But the closer he got, I could see a smile and not worry on his face. He ran up to me, still with his phone front and center.

"You won the seat!" I did not reply, I was a bit stunned. What? But I was down this whole recount.

"You won the seat, and not by a lot."

"Well, are you sure?" because I remember that feeling on November 7th, seeing one vote and knowing exactly how Gore & Bush must have felt back in 2000. Then the weeks of recounts, seeing the margin change and not for the better.

"Yes, I am sure. It was just posted. Here, let me see..." he said scrolling and pushing his screen. "Ummm, oh my gosh! 8 votes."

"Your kidding me. 8 votes?" I was warm and tingly yet frozen at the same time. Half my face smiled while my eyebrows raised to ask the question for me.

"Nope. 8 votes. You are a Unified Board Member!" he said with much enthusiasm and a smile. I could think of nothing more to do than hug him. I grabbed and squeezed, unable to grasp the news. Shock like I had never felt it before.

I told him thank you for finding me, thank you for being the one to tell me and thank you for his support. As you can see, there is pure joy on this face ... as well as a bit of pride.

I immediately went outside but instead of seeing the stadium, I called my husband. When I told him, I could hear the smile on his face as he shouted ... "HEY BOYS! Mom won the election!" Hoots and hollers from the other end of the phone as they all told me how awesome I was. That was my favorite part of the day .... that phone call.

My opponent was so very gracious. The moment he saw me later that evening he walked right up to me, shook my hand and congratulated me on winning the seat. It was a difficult moment for me, I was appreciative of his kindness but felt so bad that I won. It was a little odd, guess it is because of my nature. But we got past it and I was on my way to a reality that I only thought could happen. I volunteer A LOT. Little League. School. Scouts. Book Fairs. And by God I was proud that my reputation as a can do take charge mom followed me to the polls and helped give me the potential to do good for so many more children. And of course, just about every one I know tells me that they are one of the 8 who helped me get elected. It's amazing so see such support of a person who believes she can make a difference.

December 5, 2012

Photo by Rob Varela, Ventura County Star

New Santa Paula Unified School District board of trustees member Kelsey Stewart(right) chats with a supporter at the conclusion of the board's first meeting after they were sworn in Wednesday at the Santa Paula Community Center. Stewart had just learned she won her place on the board by 8 votes.

So that is where I have been, that is what I have been doing, and ever since the election I have been back to school in a sense devouring any and all literature I can find on Education Codes, Laws, Policies and so on. It's a big job, and I am LOVING it so far! But I have come to a point where the balance has allowed me to catch up so to speak and I have found time to be here, with you. I know most adoption blogs don't share this kind of personal information, but this story is something that I just had to share. I have always been a believer that you control your destiny, and that life is what you make of it. Twenty years ago I was struggling to get through day by day, scarred and sure that I would be broken forever. But today, I can say that I have learned to live again, scars and all, and it is those scars and turmoils that have helped me be the strong, caring, healthy woman that I am today. Here's to a great 2013 for us all!

Oh, and if anyone ever says their vote does not count I beg to differ! Every. Vote. Counts!


Lacie said...

Congratulations on achieving a monumental goal!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Kelsey!

You were up in my neck of the woods. I hope you enjoyed The City.

When I run for School Board, I know who to ask for tips. :)