By editorial board • 

Vera, Warmbier best combo for local school board seats

Five candidates are vying for a pair of seats on the McMinnville School Board in Oregon’s May 18 special district election.

That’s good news, as board seats have been contested only twice during this century, now almost a quarter of the way through. Sadly, special district elections more often feature races with only one candidate or none.

What’s more, all five are running in the interest of public service, not the pursuit of personal aggrandizement or narrow, partisan agendas. That’s also good news, as we’ve recently had to endure ugly city and county campaigns marked by deception, divisiveness and allegiance to special interests over the common good.

Our choices are Housing Authority executive Yanira Vera, appointed incumbent in Position 1, and former middle school math and science teacher Abbie Warmbier, challenger in Position 2.

Both boast strong personal and professional credentials, and both turned in impressive performances in a candidate forum conducted by the chamber. In addition, both would help bridge gaps in the board’s networks with students, parents, teachers and administrators.

Vera combines Latino heritage and Spanish fluency, filling cultural and linguistic gaps. Warmbier is a young mother of two, filling a generational gap.

The board chose Vera over three other contenders when Position 1 last opened in October. She is facing challenges from accountant Raul Medrano and Bailey Nurseries executive Jason Bizon, neither of whom sought appointment to the seat last fall.

Warmbier is challenging two-term incumbent Barbara Carter, who spent 19 years as a special education assistant with the district prior to her retirement. Incumbent Carson Benner, owner of Cellar Ridge Construction, is unopposed in Position 3.

Vera has been advancing in the ranks at the county housing authority since 1999. She and her husband, Oliver, have shepherded two children through McMinnville schools during that period.

On the board, she received her baptism of fire helping select a new superintendent, coped with distance learning in the face of a pandemic, and began transitioning back to in-person education.

She gets high marks for her work so far. She has been characterized to us as a hard worker, quick study and good fit.

While we find both her opponents worthy, civic-minded people capable of contributing in their own right, Vera moved first to seize the chance to serve and has made the most of it. We think she has earned the right to a full four-year term.

Carter has served the district well during her eight years on the job. We have no quarrel with her contribution.

However, it’s important for school boards, city councils and other bodies to find ways to admit new people with new ideas. We think it’s time to give someone else a chance.

Warmbier is a dynamic, high-energy person full of fresh perspectives to share. We can see her filling the kind of positive and collegial generational transition role that Zack Geary, who’s supporting her candidacy, moved into on the city council when he replaced council veteran Allen Ruden.

Janis Braich has been serving since 1999, and Larry Vollmer since 2006, so the school board doesn’t lack experience. What it does need is young teacher and young mother connections, both of which Warmbier could fill admirably.

Only two of the board’s seven members still have children in school, and those children are nearing graduation. In contrast, Warmbier has K and pre-K children just setting out on their educational journey.

Warmbier holds a bachelor’s from Linfield University and is on the verge of earning a master’s in educational policy and leadership from American University.

Before stepping back to raise a family, she spent seven years teaching middle school math and science classes in Pullman, Washington. She has been active in a wide range of local volunteer activities since returning to McMinnville.

It would be hard to go wrong in this election, given the quality of the field. But we think the board would be best served by retaining Vera and adding Warmbier.

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