An April 4 newspaper ad has caused concern for at least two School District of Beloit board members.
The ad placed by Friends of Tim Listenbee asked voters to write-in Listenbee’s name. The ad lists only incumbent board member Shannon Scharmer and in parentheses the words “leave blank” appear. Also in the ad, current school board member Tia Johnson is listed as Listenbee’s treasurer.
Listenbee decided to run as a write-in candidate last week. He then filed paperwork with administrative assistant Michelle Shope. Shope confirmed Listenbee filed paperwork and met all deadlines to be an active candidate.
Johnson said Listenbee asked her to be treasurer and because she feels he is an asset to the community and a worthy candidate for school board, she agreed.
Johnson said she was not in the office when the ad was designed and though she feels Listenbee would make a good school board member she does not believe the board would be better off without Scharmer.
Johnson said, to her understanding, the ad was supposed to list all three candidates. She reiterated she does not want Scharmer ousted from the school board.
“I don’t think having Shannon Scharmer off the board would be in the best interest of the school district,” Johnson said. “I have nothing against Shannon Scharmer.”
Johnson said the ad was not designed to campaign against any one candidate but instead asked voters to question how board members are serving the public.
Johnson said she has not spoken with Scharmer about the ad yet because Scharmer and herself both have very busy schedules.
Scharmer said the ad was reminiscent of an “out of line” ad that was placed by the Beloit Education Association last year. She also questioned the motives behind the last minute write-in.
“Personally, I believe this last minute write-in campaign might be the effort of a group of BEA members whose hope was to posture themselves for imminent contract negotiations in hopes they will have a fourth vote to support unequivocally the interests of the BEA,” Scharmer said.
Scharmer said she has not spoken with Tia Johnson since the ad ran.
“I applaud Mr. Listenbee as I truly believe that the voters should have a choice at the polls. However, I am concerned that sitting board member Tia Johnson would take such a negative and ugly attack at another board member, particularly when Johnson campaigned last year on the platform that the board must be willing to work together,” Scharmer said.
Listenbee said the ad was intended to list all three candidates and he did not see it before it went to print. Several individuals were involved in designing the ad, though Listenbee did not want to name them.
After seeing the ad, Listenbee said it was not what he envisioned. He also has not spoken with Scharmer about the ad but is hoping to clear it up as soon as possible.
Listenbee said the ad was not run as an attack on any school board member but instead asked them to review their options for school board candidates.
Listenbee said he would like to apologize if the ad offended Scharmer.
“I would be willing to clear it up with her, it was an honest mistake,” he said. “I don’t believe in dirty politics.”
There were 205 write-in votes at this year’s election, Shope said nearly all of them were for Listenbee.
Despite the write-in effort all three incumbents were re-elected including Sharmer who received 628 votes.
Scharmer said she is committed to the board and will continue to serve. “I am very pleased with the election results and I am looking forward to serving a third term on the school board.