COLUMBIA — Helen Wade won the lottery on Tuesday.
Her prize will be top billing on the ballot in April’s election for three seats on the Columbia School Board.
“I’ll take any advantage the state will give me,” said Wade, a Columbia family law attorney running for the first time.
She is one of three candidates who filed on Tuesday, the first day they could do so.
Boone County follows Missouri’s statewide election laws. These laws assign ballot placement by lottery to election candidates who file on the first day. Candidates who file later are placed after the first-day filers.
The three spots up for grabs on the board are currently held by Tom Rose, Ines Segert and Jonathan Sessions.
Of those three, Sessions was the only one to file on Tuesday. Segert and Rose could not be reached on Wednesday to indicate their plans.
“I knew I was going to do it, there’s no reason to delay,” said Sessions, who was elected last April to a one-year appointment on the board, filling the remaining year in the late Rosie Tippin’s term.
He and Wade are currently joined by Dave Raithel, another first-time candidate, on the ballot. Candidates have until Jan. 18 to apply.
Nick Boren, the Columbia Public School District’s deputy superintendent for administration, oversees the candidate filing procedures.
He said he was surprised more people didn’t file Tuesday. Conventional wisdom would indicate that placement on the ballot could help a candidate, he said.
Missouri changed its laws about ballot placement in 1995, according to the Missouri Secretary of State elections division.
Before then, ballot placement was assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, which Boren said led to crowds on the first day.
“Years ago, they would camp out like waiting for concert tickets,” he said.
Different motivations led Tuesday’s filers to announce their candidacies.
Raithel is a former substitute teacher in the Columbia Public Schools who holds a doctorate degree in philosophy from MU and most recently worked as a farm hand in Hartsburg.
He said he was motivated to apply after reading the district’s plan to create a center for suspended students to keep up with their schoolwork.
“A kid cannot learn if he’s not in the room,” Raithel said. If elected, Raithel said he would hope to revisit the district’s disciplinary policies.
Wade, a partner in Columbia law firm Harper, Evans, Wade and Netemeyer, said her professional experience piqued her interest in the position and would make her a strong board member.
“Every day I work with families in Columbia,” she said.
Wade said she would hope to involve parents more in the schools and ensure that the board continually reassesses district achievement.
Sessions, who owns the technology consulting company Tech 2, said his experience on the board so far has been a tremendous learning experience and that he ran for his first one-year term with the hope of serving longer.
He said he wants to ensure the district continues to spend wisely and not be averse to change, such as a proposal to make some elementary schools “autonomous,” which would invest administrators in each school with more control.
In announcing his candidacy Tuesday, Sessions began his second election campaign in less than a year. He hopes it will be his last campaign for some time.
“I’m excited to be running for a three-year term,” he said.