BROOKINGS – City of Brookings and Brookings School District voters kept incumbents in office and elected one newcomer in Tuesday’s combined municipal/school board election.
City councilor Ope Niemeyer is shifting to mayor, and councilors Nick Wendell and Patty Bacon will retain their seats. On the school board, incumbent Debra DeBates will be joined by Keli Books.
Ope Niemeyer was elected mayor of Brookings by a wide margin over two other opponents. Current Mayor Keith Corbett did not seek re-election.
Retaining their seats on the council are incumbents Patty Bacon and Nick Wendell. All the council posts are for three years.
Niemeyer started his fourth term as a council member last year, so his council seat will be vacant by his move to mayor.
City Clerk Bonnie Foster said the process to fill the seat is outlined in the city charter, Section 2.06(d): “The Council, by majority vote of all its remaining members, shall appoint a qualified person to fill the vacancy until the person elected to serve the remainder of the unexpired term takes office.”
Foster said the steps taken will start with Niemeyer resigning his council seat and being sworn in as mayor. The council will decide the path they want to follow regarding filling the vacant council seat: special election or application process.
Niemeyer won the mayor’s seat with 2,088 votes, followed by Jeff Miller with 1,166 votes and Bradley Walker with 234. There were 42 under votes and no over votes for a total of 3,530 votes.
Wendell led the pack for the council seats with 2,036 votes, followed by Bacon with 1,726; Nick Schmeichel with 1,271; Dr. Isaiah Crevier with 1,187 and Nate Holden with 329. There were 393 under votes and 118 over votes for a total of 7,060 votes.
“I feel good about my win; it was decisive,” Niemeyer said. “I feel that (we) as city council have done the right thing in the last year and … the statement was made today (by the voters),” Niemeyer said Tuesday.
“I ran a clean race; I appreciate the two contenders I had,” Niemeyer said. “Had a crack team, they did a good job.”
“I look forward to working with the county, SDSU, the school and the businesses of this community to move forward,” Niemeyer said.
“I’m excited,” Bacon said. “It’s been a tough year, but I think we got through the worst of that. So I think that we have exciting things to look forward to.
“I’d like to thank the citizens of Brookings for supporting me, believing in me, and I commit myself to serving them to the best of my ability going forward,” she said.
“I’m very relieved personally, but I’m just so proud of our community. I think we all have survived a challenging year, and I’m just so proud that we hung together, and I think tonight’s vote really demonstrated that,” Wendell said.
“I’ve said this over and over again throughout the campaign, but I mean it. I think the last year has been filled with challenges, but I think the years ahead of us are filled with opportunities, and I’m just excited to get back to work and keep shaping those opportunities for our community,” Wendell said. “I’m so thankful and so relieved and just really proud to serve.”
In the race for two three-year seats on the Brookings School Board, Keli Books came in first with 2,282 votes, and Debra DeBates came in second with 2,200 votes.
Board member Roger DeGroot did not run for re-election.
Challenger Jade Nelson Withers came in third with 1,049 votes, followed by Jacqueline Johnson with 498 votes.
There were 22 over votes and 1,415 under votes, with 7,466 total votes.
Incumbent DeBates said she is looking forward to another term on the school board.
“Well, I’m just excited to have a second term and ready to go to work to do what we need to do to get those kids back in school for fall and have them ready to be back in a classroom with their teachers – that’s definitely the most immediate goal,” DeBates said.
“I’m excited to go back to work again. I’ve enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to another term,” DeBates said.
Books said that she’s looking forward to getting started on the transition into the school board role.
“I’m excited, I’m grateful. I’ve had a lot of support from the community, friends and family who have helped me and supported me and advised me, and so I’m just excited and ready to get to work,” Books said.
“I’m looking forward to getting more information about the culture of our schools and current landscapes and just working with the great team and great board that’s already in place,” she added.
A total of 3,733 ballots were cast in Tuesday’s election.