Charleston attorney Ryan White, in his first bid for public office, came out on top in Tuesday’s Kanawha County Board of Education race, joining incumbents Becky Jordon and Pete Thaw on the school board.
White, 35, of Charleston’s East End, received 14,318 votes — about 23 percent of all school board votes and the most of the seven candidates.
White, who owns White Law Offices in South Charleston with his father, Steve, said his top priority will be to increase parent and community involvement in the county’s public school system — the largest school district in the state.
“I think we need to find a way to get our parents more involved. That’s a quick and easy thing I think we could do — well, not easy, but something that doesn’t cost a lot of money,” White said Tuesday evening. “I want to form a committee that tries to get our parents more involved, and for those kids that it may not be feasible for their parents to get involved, I would also encourage members of the community to take these kids under their wing.”
A former counsel for the state Senate Finance Committee, White has two sons under the age of 2 who he plans to enroll at Piedmont Elementary. He is also focused on increasing enrollment in pre-kindergarten and better preparing high school students for careers and college.
White also toppled his competitors in campaign contributions, receiving nearly $70,000 in donations on the campaign trail — something he said he knew he needed to do in order to have a chance as a first-time candidate.
“It seems like my plan was working. I wanted to get my name out there, and obviously it seems like people responded very well to my message,” he said.
Thaw, the school board’s president, came in second place with 12,035 votes — about 19 percent, and will continue his 16-year stint on the board.
Thaw, 83, says he will continue to fight tax hikes. Most recently, Thaw campaigned against a $24.4 million school excess levy that would have supported schools and the county’s financially strapped public libraries. The levy was overwhelmingly rejected by voters last November.
“It’s more of the same for me. I’m going to continue to look after the children and the taxpayers as best as I can, and I look forward to working with [White]. I hope he is a fiscal conservative,” Thaw said.
Thaw said he is especially thankful to the voters, pointing out that neither the Gazette nor the Charleston Daily Mail endorsed him for school board.
“I want to thank the people of Kanawha County very much for their continued support of me. I cannot express to them how appreciative I am, because year after year that I run, they refuse to be swayed against me, when no paper ever endorses me. Nobody ever endorses me except the people, and I’m so thankful for that, and I always will be,” he said.
Jordon, who has children in the Kanawha County schools system, came in third with 9,488 votes, continuing her 12-year tenure on the school board.
Jordon, 53, who has a background in social work, says her top priority is to improve the use of technology for students.
First-time candidate Calvin McKinney, who served as principal at Sissonville High School for several years, trailed Jordon by only about 560 votes, putting him in fourth place.
Vic Sprouse, a former state Senate minority leader, placed fifth out of the seven candidates, receiving 8,331 votes.
Sprouse took to his candidate Facebook page to talk about his loss, joking that he had “one ex-wife too many.”
“I knew it would be an uphill battle after we took a couple front-page stories on the chin the last couple weeks, but I wasn’t going to roll over and die. If you know me, then you knew I was not going to just roll over. We fought on, but it was not enough,” Sprouse said.
“It was a good, hard-fought campaign, and while we should have probably hit hard back on the personal negatives that were out there, our goal was to stay positive throughout the campaign, and we tried to do that.”
First-time candidate Tracy White, who ran on a platform of autism advocacy, received about 10 percent of the vote, and perennial candidate Curtis Robinson fell in last place with about 4 percent.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4814.