Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Politics Is Name of Game in Board Races, Some Say

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Politics Is Name of Game in Board Races, Some Say

Article excerpt

Parents, students and even some School Board members say the Mehlville board is a study in politics.

The School Board is considered by some to be a step in their political careers. Although board races are supposed to be non-partisan, the first question district residents often ask when candidates file for the School Board in Mehlville is, "Are they Democrats or Republicans?"

Of the five candidates on the April 1 ballot for Mehlville School Board, at least four have party ties. The incumbent, Wayne Hilzinger, says he is a Democrat; Walter Bivins recently ran unsuccessfully on the Republican ticket for the St. Louis County Council and also ran in the Republican primary in 1994 for state representative; Dave Gralike is the son of a longtime Democratic state representative and state senator; and Joe Matuszak is the husband of Donna Matuszak, Republican commiteewoman for the Tesson Ferry Township. Candidate Redonna Wagganer says she has no political ties whatsoever and won't take any special-interest money. "I'm basically running because I think the parents need to be more involved," she said. But board member Dan Fowler says running such a campaign will be tough. "I've seen a lot of parents run and I've seen a lot of parents defeated, and that's really unfortunate," Fowler said. "To get elected to the Mehlville School Board, you either have to be supported by Democrats or Republicans, or have really high name recognition." Fowler, who considers himself independent, says he believes the situ ation has grown worse in recent years. "When I first went on the board in 1989, nobody thought in terms of Republican and Democrat," Fowler said. "The board has become extremely political and very partisan." Fowler credits his election to the board to his business contacts through his insurance agency. Board members Kurt Witzel and Dick Roehl disagree with Fowler's assessment. They say parents can still run for the board without political support. "I don't think you need partisan support at all," said Roehl, a Republican state representative in St. Charles County about 15 years ago. "It's not the Republicans at all that got me elected." Said Witzel: "I think a parent who comes out and voices their philosophy can run for the board and win." But board member Candy Green is not convinced. Green said she was neither Republican nor Democrat and never had been. In last year's race, Green came in third among the three candidates elected. "I believe it was because I didn't have a political machine behind me," she says. The Only Show In Town Some political observers say they have a theory as to why Mehlville seems to be more political: Mehlville is an unincorporated area and has no city governments within its boundaries, unlike Lindbergh or Rockwood. So those interested in politics have no other place to run. …

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