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Wanted: Candidates for Upper Perkiomen School Board
Written by Kelly Chandler Staff Writer

        You can almost hear crickets when you ask people if they know anyone interested in running for Upper Perkiomen School Board Director.

        The school board will have five open seats on next month's primary ballot, and only two candidates, cross-filed on both the Republican and Democratic tickets, are running.  Those individuals, Raeann Hofkin and Mike Elliott, are incumbents.  Directors Bill Scott, Cathy Fenley and Margie Gehlhaus aren't running for re-election.

        Board President John Gehman and directors Kerry Drake, Wilfred Pike and Jonathan Warren all have terms expiring in 2017.  

        The position of board director is unpaid.  Directors serve four-year terms unless appointed to fill a vacancy.

        Three seats remain open and, to date, officials from the Upper Montgomery County Republicans Club and the Upper Perkiomen Democratic Club said they haven't identified anyone staging a write-in campaign. 

        The official candidate list for the May 19 primary election was released by the Montgomery County Election Board last week. 

        Time hasn't run out, though, for anyone interested in serving on the board to run for election.  According to Montgomery County Communications Director Frank Custer, on behalf of the county Board of Elections, anyone interested in running for an open position can get 10 write-in votes next month to be placed on the general election ballot.  Individuals can also run as write-in candidates for the November 3 election.  The write-in candidates with the most votes would then get into office, he said.

        Gehman admitted he has concerns about the vacancies and last-minute candidates.

        "The potential is very high for one-issue candidates gaining up to three board seats and creating dissent throughout the board," he noted.  "If a candidate didn't have the initiative to go through the petition process, how much initiative will they put forth to fulfill the demands of the position of school board member?"

        He is looking forward; however, to finding out if three people do take the reins and decide they could contribute something in the position.   

        "There are many people in the community who I know would complement our board extremely well.  I just hope at least three of those folks do step to the plate," he said.

        Gehlhaus, who along with Scott, didn't want to elaborate on her choice not to seek re-election, said the position is very time-intensive.  She noted board members not only have to attend numerous meetings and school functions, but also stay informed and read what she characterized as 'voluminous' materials sent out.

        She also stated that it is often a thankless job with little acknowledgement from the community. 

        "Being a school board member is very intense and needs total immersion and total commitment," she said.  "You don't go into this thinking you will make friends or make major changes to the district; [just that] you need to do due diligence by being informed 100 percent." 

        Hofkin, who is finishing up her first term on the board, said she feels like spending time on the board has led to personal growth, though, and could do the same for others. 

        "I have learned I am capable of public speaking.  I am learning the art of compromise and how to facilitate discussions among those with strong opinions and philosophies," she explained.  "I am learning when to bend and when to take a stand without being intimidated.  I have become a good negotiator and sometimes even a referee."

        Hofkin said she thinks the time and effort put into the position are worthwhile, noting she believes being fiscally responsible and offering students a high-quality education aren't conflicting goals.

        Elliott, who said he has learned in his one year in office the importance of balancing the needs of the three stakeholders – kids, employees and residents – said he also hopes he's making a positive impact for the community.

        "Good education for our youth has so many amazing benefits. It not only makes better future citizens but also improves the community and the lives of those who live in it. I feel really proud to be a part of this community and do my small part in hopefully making it an even more amazing place to live," he said.   

        For more information on the Upper Perkiomen School Board, visit and click on the "School Board" tab.  More information on candidacy and the May 19 election can be found at








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