Wichita school board member Betty Arnold will have an opponent for the first time in her re-election bid.
Ben Blankley, 33, an engineer for Spirit AeroSystems, filed Tuesday for the District 1 seat on the Wichita board, citing a need for more people to get involved in the political process.
“A lot of people get involved either as a career or when they’re retired, and I don’t think that’s healthy for American democracy,” Blankley said. “I’ve heard people say not only should you get out and vote, but you should run, so I decided to do just that.”
Also filing for the Wichita school board this week was Julie Hedrick, a former director of facilities for the Wichita district, who is seeking to represent District 2 in east Wichita.
That seat currently is held by Joy Eakins, who has not declared whether she intends to run for re-election. Eakins said she will announce her plans on Monday.
Hedrick, 61, retired in 2015 after more than 27 years with the Wichita district. An architect with a master’s degree in business administration from Wichita State University, Hedrick helped shepherd two major bond issues and was an outspoken proponent for storm shelters in Wichita schools.
“I think I’m uniquely qualified to be on the school board,” Hedrick said. “I gained a lot of knowledge and had a great career, and now I want to give back to the community and to the district by serving.”
Arnold, a retired state auditor, has filed for a third full term representing District 1. She joined the board in 2007, filling an unexpired term, and ran unopposed for re-election in 2009 and 2013.
Blankley, who is married with a 2-year-old son, said it’s “always an uphill battle to challenge an incumbent,” but he felt inspired to do so.
“How many times do any of us go to the ballot in Kansas, and all we see as a quote ‘choice’ is a single candidate?” he said. “Even if the candidate is one we like and we approve of, they should at least have to compete for your vote.”
The Wichita school board serves the state’s largest school district, which has about 50,000 students. Its members are unpaid and are elected to four-year terms.
The filing deadline for school board seats is noon on June 1. The primary is Aug. 1, and the general election is Nov. 7.