The face of the Westerville City Board of Education will change come January, as voters elected three new members Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Nancy Nestor-Baker was the top vote-getter and will return to the board following an eight-year hiatus. She will be joined by newcomers Tracy Davidson and Rick Vilardo in replacing outgoing board members Denise Pope and Kristi Robbins, who chose not to run for re-election, and Kevin Hoffman, the incumbent board president who lost his bid for a fourth term.
Nestor-Baker earned 6,814 votes, or 18.1 percent of the votes cast, according to unofficial results from the Franklin and Delaware county boards of elections.
“I’m almost speechless. This is really incredible,” Nestor-Baker said.
Nestor-Baker, 56, served on the Westerville Board of Education for more than 14 years, before stepping down in 2005. She works as senior assistant vice president for the United Way of Central Ohio.
Nestor-Baker said she believes her experience can help to heal the rift the community feels after facing levy failures, budget cuts and controversial decisions.
“It’s a good thing for the district to have some experience on the board. It’s nice to have new opinions and new blood, but it’s good to temper that with experience,” Nestor-Baker said. “There has been so much unrest, and now (voters) hope that we’ll be able to put some of that unrest behind us, and that is key to keeping the district strong and keeping the educators in the community working well together.”
Davidson earned 6,509 votes, or 17.3 percent, and Vilardo earned 5,855 votes, or 15.6 percent.
Davidson, 44, is a professional tutor who volunteers her services in the school system. She has three children in the district and has volunteered with many district organizations, including PTAs, on the Westerville Parent Council and the board of the Westerville Education Challenge. She’s been an active volunteer with the pro-levy group, Our Community, Our Schools.
“I’m excited. I’m so very honored that I get to sit up there and be the voice for the children of the district,” Davidson said. “I’m eager to get to work and move this district forward.”
Davidson said she looks forward to working on a new vision for the district, as the board works with a new superintendent to create a strategic plan.
“I really want to set a vision, one that includes the community,” Davidson said. “I think we need to continue to be fiscally responsible in that vision, but I definitely think our community needs a voice.”
Vilardo, 55, is the lead pastor at NewSong Community Church and an active district volunteer. He currently serves on the district’s Community Engagement Committee and has volunteered with Our Community, Our Schools.
Vilardo has two elementary-aged children in the district.
Vilardo said he was grateful for the trust bestowed on him by voters.
“I’m tremendously surprised and enormously blessed,” Vilardo said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to see if we can make a difference for the kids and the schools, just to make what I think is a really good school system a really great school system.”
Of the remaining eight candidates, Jim Burgess earned 4,899 votes, or 13 percent; Luke Davis earned 4,183 votes, or 11.1 percent; John Sodt earned 4.168 votes, or 11.1 percent; Hoffman earned 3,553 votes, or 9.4 percent; and Robert Edwards earned 1,670 votes, or 4.4 percent.
Burgess, Davis and Sodt, with ties to the Westerville Tea Party and past campaigns against local school levies, ran as a team seeking greater fiscal responsibility from the district.