Board candidates outline what sets them apart from other contenders

Published 6:16 am Sunday, November 4, 2012

The six candidates for Albert Lea school board.

In an effort to better know the candidates running in the Albert Lea school board election, the Tribune asked each candidate the following questions.

Five people, including incumbents Linda Laurie, Bill Leland and Kim Nelson and newcomers Jenny Edwin and Julie Johnson, will be on the ballot for three available seats on the board. Incumbent Jeshua Erickson is running unopposed in a special school board election for a two-year seat on the board.

Answers are listed in alphabetical order by last names of the candidates. Answers have been edited for space reasons.

What is the one thing that sets you apart from the other candidates?

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Jenny Edwin: I think I would probably say it’s my volunteering in the schools. I’m currently working in an elementary school up to 10 hours a week, and I’ve been doing that for the last five years. My mom was a teacher so I already had a great appreciation for what teachers do. I’m seeing what’s going on in the classrooms and what issues are facing kids today.

Jeshua Erickson: I think the thing that sets me apart is my fascination or interest in the effect the work of a healthy school board has on whether or not a district functions to its full potential.

Julie Johnson: One thing that sets me apart is my diverse experience, my 12 years working in education along with my 10 years working in business in the finance area. And being a parent in the district as well. Those experiences set me apart from the other candidates.

Linda Laurie: I think the thing that sets me apart is I really like to see all sides of an issue. Whether it’s something that’s brought to the school board, a parent concern or the school district is recommending something, I look at all sides of the issue, think about it, do research if necessary and come up with a good answer so we’re not rushing to a solution.

Bill Leland: It has to be my experience. Not only have I been on the board for 12 years but I’ve been involved at many different levels at the Minnesota School Board Association and other school organizations as well on a statewide basis.

Kim Nelson: The knowledge I have on early childhood education and how important it is. If we’re more active in early childhood we could save so much money when they get to school.


Because state-level races affect education, who will you vote for in the state senator and state representative races?

Jenny Edwin: I’m not willing to comment. If you make that public people will judge you based on who you’re voting for.

Jeshua Erickson: I’m voting for Dan Sparks for Senate and Shannon Savick for representative. I’m seeing a lot more support for Schools for Equity in Education, it’s a bipartisan group but I’m seeing a little more support on the Democratic side. I want to keep that going. It’s vitally important that kids are getting the same opportunities.

Julie Johnson: I consider myself independent so I don’t vote along party lines. I am voting for Dan Sparks and Rich Murray.

Linda Laurie: I went to the legislative forum at Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services so I got to sit and listen to community members ask questions of the candidates. I feel strongly that Dan Sparks is the candidate who will lead us in the right direction. And Rich Murray because I have such great admiration for him.

Bill Leland: State Rep. Rich Murray. Hands down he shows great support for the school district. I’m torn between Dan Sparks and his opponent Linden Anderson.

Kim Nelson: I vote on issues. I’m voting for Dan Sparks for senator because he has been a champion for education and he’s been a huge champion for early childhood. And I’m voting for Rich Murray because quite honestly I see him engaged in education.


Besides yourself, who would you like to see elected to the school board and why?

Jenny Edwin: I think I’d like to see anyone elected to the school board who is willing to work hard for the community or is willing to make sure all voices are being heard or is willing to do what it takes to make this a really great district.

Jeshua Erickson: I very much have enjoyed working with the incumbents. It still feels to me like a new board in a lot of ways. I definitely would be really excited if the board we have now is the board that is elected.

Julie Johnson: I definitely would enjoy working with everyone who’s running — I don’t feel like I can choose. Everyone brings great strength and experience to the table. I think everyone is a quality candidate who brings a lot of strengths to the position.

Linda Laurie: Bill Leland, and the reason why is he has such a history on the board. He’s been on the board 12 years. His common sense, experience and judgement, and community involvement — he’s a great person on the board. I really would like Kim Nelson to be elected because she’s a great asset to our school board. She, Julie Johnson and Jenny Edwin interviewed for that position and the school board appointed Kim Nelson above them. We believe she was the best person for the job. And Jeshua Erickson for the two-year seat; he’s a huge asset to our school board.

Bill Leland: Without a doubt Linda Laurie. She’s been a great chairwoman and I’d like to see her continue in that capacity. She’s been able to bring the board together and provide new direction. Kim Nelson has been doing a really good job, and I love her early childhood experience and that knowledge because that’s such a vital role for setting the foundation for these kids.

Kim Nelson: In public office not everyone is going to like you. I’m friends with both Julie Johnson and Jenny Edwin, but there’s been a lot that’s gotten done and that has a lot to do with the people in place right now. So I think the three incumbents should be the ones that are elected. I have nothing against either of the other two, but it takes a lot to get people up to speed and that would be time lost for our momentum.


About the candidates

Jenny Edwin

Years on school board: seeking

Professional background: Christian education director at First Lutheran Church in Albert Lea since 2006; former head gymnastics coach for NRHEG High School; former gymnastics coach for Richfield Gymnastics Club; former stay-at-home mother; former dental hygienist

Education: University of North Dakota, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud Technical College

Present community involvement: member of Senior Resource Board and United Way Allocations Committee, classroom volunteer at Lakeview Elementary School


Jeshua Erickson

Years on school board: 2

Professional background: Programmer and analyst with Agilis Co. in Albert Lea since 2011; former web developer with Work Effects Inc. in Minneapolis; former web consultant to city of Albert Lea and others; former bookstore coordinator in Washington.

Education: Bachelor of Arts in English and religion from Luther College

Present community involvement: member of Flying Lea Disc Golf Club, volunteer coordinator for Walking Moai


Julie Johnson

Years on school board: seeking

Professional background: vice president of State Bank of Clarks Grove since 2003; former director of human resources for Austin Public Schools; former Affirmative Action officer in human resources and former Career Link Center director for Riverland Community College; former enrollment management specialist and administrative assistant in the nursing department for the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul

Education: Bachelor of Arts in communications from University of Minnesota, Duluth

Present community involvement: board member for Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Foundation, member of American Association of University Women, member of First Lutheran Church Call Committee, Sunday school teacher and choir member at First Lutheran church


Linda Laurie

Years on school board: 4

Professional background: stay-at-home mother since 2002; former nurse in Grafton, N.D., and Grand Forks, N.D.

Education: nursing degree from North Dakota State College of Science, attended University of North Dakota

Present community involvement: volunteer with Reading Corps at Sibley Elementary School, member of Lakeview Lions Club and TTT Club.


Bill Leland

Years on school board: 12

Professional background: Broker with Kenneth R. Leland Realty in Albert Lea since 1997; former product manager with Carlisle Plastics Inc. in Minneapolis; former marketing manager with Waverly Plastics Co. in Waverly, Iowa; former sales engineer for new products with StarTex Corp. in Lakeville; former district representative with Modern Woodmen in Rock Island, Ill.

Education: Bachelor of Science in urban studies from Mankato State University

Present community involvement: member of Grace Lutheran Church, Minnesota School Board Association Insurance Trust, Minnesota School Board Association Delegate Assembly


Kim Nelson

Years on school board: 1

Professional background: executive director of The Children’s Center in Albert Lea since 2006; former executive director of Apple Lane Community Child Care Center in Austin; former marketing manager for Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau; former director of sales for Torgerson Properties in Austin.

Education: Associate of arts from University of Minnesota, Waseca, in child care

Present community involvement: member of Chamber Ambassadors and Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Business Education Committee, participant with Freeborn County Family Services Collaborate and THRIVE.