The Bakersfield City School District will appoint its next trustee instead of holding a special election to replace recently resigned board member Raymond Gonzales, trustees decided Tuesday.
Gonzales, 78, who ran unopposed in November, had more than three years left on his term. He resigned his seat last month over health concerns.
Trustees made the decision Tuesday in a 3-1 vote. Trustee Pamela Baugher dissented, calling on her colleagues to instead hold a special election to encourage a democratic process. It died for lack of a second.
Other trustees complained about the cost, which would have run about $78,000, and having to wait until the next available election in November to fill the vacancy.
The decision gives the district just 44 days to announce to the community that it’s seeking applicants, host an orientation, hold interviews, and finally, appoint someone to finish Gonzales’ term.
“The toughest thing about these is getting people who are interested and want to move the work,” Superintendent Harry “Doc” Ervin said after the meeting, admitting that it’s a tight turnaround to find a trustee to serve such a long term.
Deadlines for applicants are July 12, and trustees must appoint someone by July 20. If they don’t, they would be forced to hold a special election that would be decided in April 2018, said Grant Herndon, general counsel for Schools Legal Service.
Area 3 – which makes up a swath of central Bakersfield buttressed between Highway 99 and Union Avenue north of Highway 58 – hasn’t had an election since 2012 when the district created voting areas.
Bill McDougle, an incumbent, won that year against Ronnie Cruz by about 550 votes, then resigned over health issues in 2015. He was replaced by Gonzales, who was appointed.
Cruz, an operations manager at Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, was back Tuesday at board chambers, calling on the district to initiate a special election so that he could run for the vacant seat.
After the meeting he said he would be “a lone ranger who would get things done.” Despite that, Cruz hesitated when asked after the meeting whether he would apply for an appointed seat.
“Everybody should be elected,” Cruz said. “It should be what the people want.”