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The newly constituted board may consider asking voters again for a facilities bond

Diane NoriegaDiane Noriega won a seat on the Mt. Hood Community College Board of Education and LaVerne Lewis won in a three-way race over two incumbents.

Noriega bested challenger Courtney Helstein in the Tuesday, May 21, election.

Noriega had 10,981 votes or 50.6% of the tally, compared with Helstein's 10,529 or 48.5% of the vote.

Noriega is a former MHCC board member and was interim president of California State University, Monterey Bay, and worked decades in higher education.

The race for Position 7, at large, drew three candidates: Tamie Tlustos-Arnold, LaVerne Lewis and Christine (Teena) Klawa-Ainslie.

COURTESY PHOTO - LaVerne LewisNewcomer Lewis had 10,907 votes, Arnold had 6,892 votes while Klawa-Ainslie had 3,790 votes.

"I am humbled at the support I received from the community, staff and students and the support of East County Rising and their staff," Lewis said.

She noted that she has three focus points for her upcoming tenure — campus safety, student success and affordable tuition.

Lewis is the director of the nonprofit Rockwood Center and an adjunct faculty member at MHCC, a position she cannot continue as a member of the board. Lewis will resign as an MHCC instructor now that she's won the election.

"I feel a little on the mourning side that I won't be able to teach anymore," she said.

Two other races for seats on the all-volunteer college board were uncontested.

Newcomer Andrew Speer, a former U.S. Marine, is a regulatory consultant with Portland General Electric. He ran unopposed for Zone 3.

Kenney Polson, an incumbent, ran to keep his position in Zone 5, is a teacher and band director in the Stevenson-Carson School District and well-known local jazz musician.

East County Rising, a political action group, endorsed Lewis, Helstein, Polson and Speer.

The vast community college district faces some challenges. Voters turned down MHCC's bid to pass a facilities bond to improve its 50 year old buildings in May 2016 and again in May 2017. The new board of education may decide to try again.

In March the college increased tuition by 8%, the largest jump in a decade. Enrollment is declining at community colleges, as it generally does when jobs are plentiful.


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