HAYWARD — Sheila Sims' humble credentials as a retired teacher and longtime Hayward resident apparently resonated with voters, as she annihilated her five competitors Tuesday night to secure a two-year seat as a school board trustee — one of three new faces elected to the panel.
"I was totally surprised with the result," Sims said Wednesday. "I can't tell you what it was, but I was very pleased."
Sims said she did a lot of campaigning with her family, but acknowledged that name recognition helped — she is married to Fred Sims, a longtime member of the Alameda County Board of Education.
And being the only contender listed as a "retired teacher" in the ballot's candidate statements probably didn't hurt, either.
But none of it explains the overwhelming result: With all precincts reported, and most absentee ballots counted, Sims netted 41 percent of the vote, with her closest competitor, Kelly Rocchio, at 16 percent.
Sims will be joined on the board by four-year electees Luis Reynoso, incumbent Sarah Gonzales and community activist Maribel Heredia.
In the four-year race, Reynoso came in with 14.7 percent of the vote; Gonzales had 13.2 percent and Heredia had 13.11 percent.
Paul Frumkin, whose term ends in 2010, was the only trustee not leaving or up for re-election this year. Sergio Saenz and Grant Peterson both decided not to seek re-election. Incumbent Jeff Cook came in sixth in the four-year race.
"I hope there's not too much bickering," she said. "If I have anything to do with it, it will be less contentious."
That might be unavoidable, however. Reynoso, who campaigned as a reform candidate, said a desire for new blood on the board is what propelled him to victory in a crowded field.
"I hope that we will work together, but of course there will be some disagreement," he said. "Make no mistake, we definitely have to make some changes to see improvements. Whatever the board could not improve before, we will try very, very hard, and if we have to get creative, we will."
Heredia agreed that voters had grown weary with the existing board.
"With the 10-day teacher strike from last year, with the school closures, with the services continuing to get cut, parents are upset and tired," she said. "They want to see someone new and fresh with new ideas. They wanted a student advocate, and the community sees me as a student advocate."
Despite a campaign that leveled blame squarely at the board for being a "wasteful monarchy," Reynoso said he doesn't think the new lineup will be particularly divisive, and looks forward to working with his colleagues.
"Nothing can be guaranteed, but with new members at least now we have a chance to do something," he said.
Frumkin said he is excited about working with his new colleagues. He said he hopes "the learning curve is real quick" regarding the district's deficit, and urged new members "not to be mystified with it."
He added that all the candidates have been involved with the community and have much to offer, although he cautioned that there are big differences between being a community activist and being on the board. He said time will tell how the board functions after the new members are sworn in come December.
"It's one thing to get elected," he said. "Now the real thing will be all the hard work ahead of us. Hopefully we can all work together, because ultimately the board drives the car."
Eric Kurhi covers Hayward. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-293-2473.