School board election offers new, familiar faces

As the May 21 election quickly approaches, there will be at least one new face on the South Lane School District school board.

In this election, there are four spots that will be voted on with three candidates running unopposed. In two of those races, incumbents Tammy Hodgkinson and Jerry Settelmeyer are running to secure their positions on the board; in position three, Dustin Bengston is running unopposed. 

According to his candidate filing, Bengston is currently a federal employee with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and has experience in budget development. 

The one contested seat is position 7, which sees Demian Schwartz and Gary Mort running for the spot. Mort, the incumbent, was voted to this seat in 2015 and sees this as a positive as the board looks to sort through a number of issues. 

“I’d like to see it through. Particularly right now, and this is always the argument the incumbent makes, ‘Oh, we can’t change horses midstream.’ We have a lot of stuff in the stream right now,” said Mort, an instructor at Lane Community College.

Over the span of the next board term, board members will be making decisions on everything from a new superintendent, to what will be done with district property at both the old Harrison Elementary and current Latham School. 

Regardless of the decisions that are made, Mort sees a direct tie from the decisions on the board to the greater well-being of the city.  

“If the people on the board and the people in the district aren’t aware of the community in which they live and operate and the world in which their kids are living every day and are going to become adults, we become the schools as a place you dump your kids at 8 in the morning and pick your kid up at 5 in the afternoon — and hate or ignore the rest of the year,” said Mort. “That’s never been a great model and it’s become an infeasible model.”

Schwartz, who did not respond to interview requests from The Sentinel, also has stressed the value of community.

“I believe strongly in civic responsibility and community service. As an educator my primary work is with children and families; this is the population I feel moved to serve,” Schwartz writes in her Lane County Voters’ Pamphlet bio.

According to her candidate filing form, Schwartz’s education background includes working as a school administrator. Additionally, she has worked on nonprofit boards including Lane County Commission for Children and Families.


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