Weather Forecast


Incumbents, newcomer selected to Bemidji School Board

BEMIDJI – Two incumbents and a newcomer were selected to the Bemidji School Board by voters Tuesday.

In complete but unofficial votes, Ann Long Voelkner led all voting with 22 percent while Jeff Haack gathered 17.6 percent of votes.

Incumbent John Pugleasa had the third most votes, collecting 14.5 percent of votes.

Also running for the three seats on the six-member board were Paula DeClusin, who had 14.2 percent, John Truedson, who had 13 percent, Dana Kuzel with 12 percent and Rob Warmboe, who had 6.4 percent of votes.

School board members serve four-year terms. They are paid $450 a month; the chair receives an additional $600 a year.

Long Voelkner, 53, has been a member of the school board for 12 years while Pugleasa, 49, has been on the board for eight. Current school board member Melvin “Gene” Dillon did not file for re-election this year. Dillon first joined the school board in 1982. He served until 1994 and then again from 2001 until now.

The school board also includes Melissa Bahr, Bill Faver and Carol Johnson; their three seats were not up for election this fall.

Long Voelkner, who works with the Chippewa National Forest, also is a board member for the Minnesota School Board Association. She has four children.

The biggest issues facing the school district at this time, she said during her campaign, is the need for continued funding, ensuring all children graduate high school, expanded support for struggling students, and the need for all students to have supportive adults in their lives.

Pugleasa, the economic assistance division director for Beltrami County Health and Human Services, also has four children.

In his campaign, Pugleasa said some district problems, like growing enrollments, present opportunities for the school district. He believes the district’s best long-term solution for overcrowded elementary classrooms is the construction of a new K-5 elementary school.

DeClusin, 42, is coordinator of youth ministries at St. Philip’s Church. She is a mother of four children and has volunteered with their schools and also has served as the president of the high school football boosters for three years.

Haack, 32, a test engineer, is a father of two young children who graduate from Bemidji High School in 1999.

Kuzel, 34, owns and operates a childcare facility. She has four children and has served as president of her kids’ parent-teacher organizations at their schools.

Truedson, 58, is a physics and science education professor at Bemidji State University who also has eight years of high school teaching experience. His work brings him inside Bemidji schools at least twice a week to work with teachers and administrators.

Warmboe, 30, works with Evergreen Youth & Family Services as its transitional housing case manager. As a former youth pastor, he has been working with youth for the past 12 years,